Before Buzz Aldrin was an American hero, he was a normal kid. Before he walked on the surface of the Moon, Aldrin walked through the halls of his middle school. On Friday, the 86-year-old former astronaut returned to his childhood home of Montclair, New Jersey. And the city honored him in a special way.
From 1941 to 1944, Buzz Aldrin was a student at Mount Hebron Middle School. When he came back at the end of last week, his old school’s name changed. At a grand ceremony, officials renamed it the Buzz Aldrin Middle School. The world-famous explorer spoke to its 660 students.
“You’re building your future here,” explained Aldrin from inside the auditorium. He said he began to take interest in math and science during middle school. And those classes prepared him for an amazing career. He told the kids about flying 66 combat missions in the Korean War during the 1950s — and, in July 1969, as lunar module pilot on the Apollo 11 mission. Aldrin also spoke about his education, graduating from West Point Military Academy in 1951 and then getting a Doctor of Science degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1963.
The middle school students honored Dr. Aldrin in different ways. A chorus sang a version of “Dancing in the Moonlight.” Other students performed a dance, moving around to spacey music. Drummers drummed outside on the street. A 12-year-old named Christian Uva handed Aldrin a sweatshirt with the new school’s logo. The 7th-grader called it an “awesome” experience.
Dr. Jill Sack is the principal of the newly named Buzz Aldrin Middle School. She said Aldrin can teach an important lesson. “He walked these halls; then he walked on the Moon,” she told News-O-Matic. “The students are walking these same halls. They can do these great things too!” Sack said that was the “focus” of the school, which has a theme of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). “No dream is too high!”
Buzz Aldrin was one of the first two people to land on the Moon. After Neil Armstrong, he became the second man to step onto its surface. But he said that human exploration of space is just beginning. “We’re going to Mars,” Aldrin said proudly. And he called for the kids to help work toward that goal. “You can be a part of that.”
Updated September 19, 2016, 5:03 P.M. (ET)
By Russell Kahn (Russ)
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