Mt Pleasant News

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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 18, 2018

An out-of-this-world experience

Mother and daughter share moment with NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson
Feb 15, 2018
Courtesy of: Karla Kerr Annika Kerr, 9, was all smiles as she met NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson on Wednesday, Feb. 14. Whitson was the keynote speaker at Iowa Wesleyan’s Founder’s Day event. Kerr’s mother, Karla, took her out of school for the afternoon so she could hear Whitson speak.

By Karyn Spory, Mt. Pleasant News


When Karla Kerr was a student at Mt. Pleasant’s Van Allen Elementary School, she met the school’s namesake, scientist Dr. James Van Allen. It was a moment she would always remember. When she heard Iowa Wesleyan alum and record-breaking NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson would be in town, Karla wanted to make sure her daughter, Annika, had her own out-of-this-world experience.

“It was awesome,” Annika said of meeting Whitson, who was the first female commander of the International Space Station.

Whitson, who recently returned from her third mission (second as commander) on the International Space Station, was the keynote speaker during Iowa Wesleyan’s Founder’s Day event on Wednesday, Feb. 14.

Instead of sending her daughter flowers or candy to school for Valentine’s Day, Karla took her daughter out of class for the afternoon and to the IW Chapel to meet Whitson.

“I think it’s amazing that we have Iowa Wesleyan here and all of the incredible women who have graduated from here like Arabella Babb Mansfield (the female lawyer in the U.S.) to (Whitson). I think it’s incredible and that’s why I wanted to bring Annika. I took her out of school because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to expose her to that.”

During her speech, Whitson talked about some of the things that impacted her life and put her on a trajectory toward space. Karla said she found it very relatable and hoped it would be inspiring for her daughter. “She grew up on a farm and you live on a farm out in the country,” she said to her daughter. “She was nine when she watched the moon landing and Annika is nine years old meeting Peggy.”

After her speech, Annika went up to the stage and briefly met Whitson and had her sign her program. “It was really cool,” she said.

On her program Whitson wrote, “For Annika, Dream Big.”

Karla hopes that after meeting Whitson her daughter will know she can not only dream big, but achieve big.

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