MIDWEST CITY, Oklahoma - One of Oklahoma's astronauts spent time this week encouraging the next generation to prepare for their future missions by attending college. 

Commander John Herrington, the first Native American to serve in America's Space Shuttle program, was born in Oklahoma.  He spent time Friday encouraging Native American 8th-grade students to think about their college career.

"I think it's important to get that message out," said Herrington.  "I say 'Y' know hey, it's gonna happen really quick.'"

Herrington was part of the Shuttle Endeavour crew that traveled to the International Space Station in 2002 and spent 13 days in space.

He revealed to the students that he didn't have much of a plan when he graduated high school, but that it was a man he worked for that encouraged him to attend college in order to get a better job. 

Herrington graduated college, entered the Navy, became a test pilot, and eventually became part of the Space Shuttle program. His message resonated with 8th-grader Caleb Scott.

"It was my first time meeting a real astronaut," said Scott.  "It made me think a lot, and realize why I should go to college."

Starla Bilyeu is Rose State College's Coordinator of High School Relations.  She's encouraged by Herrington's example.

"American Indians have achieved into space now, American Indians develop companies," Bilyeu said.  "It's important that our Native American children get out and see that.  And I think we need to bring it to them if they're not able to get out and see it." 

"What I think is responsible is that those who are Native get out into those communities and work with those students," said Herrington.  "To say 'Hey, I'm just like you, I'm proud of who I am.  I've been successful at this, you can be successful at this.'"