Jonna Ocampo’s story is one of hardships and perseverance, but unlike so many, Jonna was able to turn her story around and become the successfully motivated woman she is today. As a child, Jonna grew up in the Projects of Brooklyn, coming from a poor family. She left home at 17, and against all the odds she pursued a college education. Even in college, Jonna was just barely getting by, only able to afford to eat one potato a day for a week. Other hardships found her in college as well, and one led to surgery which removed one of her ovaries ( which has caused 4 unsuccessful IVF treatments in the years since). After graduating and only being able to obtain a low paying job, Jonna was forced to go on public assistance. Over the years other hardships struck as well; getting a raise but being flooded out of her apartment twice, living out of her car, being homeless and living out of the Port Authority in Newark, moving into an apartment that no longer had a functioning shower or toilet and having to hold it all night and go to the gym first thing upon waking up, just to shower.
In the aftermath of all of these setbacks, Jonna became interested in space. In 2002 Jonna decided she wanted to be an astronaut – a late astronaut. She was introduced to the sky, and the stars when she moved to Texas. While her dreams were big, and to some, may have seemed unattainable, Jonna’s life has developed within her a strong determination and resilience that kept her motivated. During this time her husband was deployed to the Middle East 5 times, being blown clear by IED’s 3 times, and later, being deployed to Korea for a year. During these years, Jonna was forced to live solo. She used this time to reach down and find focus, and she began training and competing as a figure competitor; going on to become Ms.Figure America twice. She competed for the United States in England and Germany and earned the right to be considered one of the best 18 bodies in the world. Competition continued in the sport of power lifting, and she went on to win Gold Medals Internationally for the USA, learning the deep pride that is felt when you hear your national anthem being played for the audience to hear.
She has competed in 3 World Championships, been on the first-ever Gold Winning Female Team in U.S. history, and became the 3rd strongest woman in the world in the 48 kg. Class in the Czech Republic. The latter of which she won after tearing her quadricep muscle 2 weeks before the competition, yet her determination and unwillingness to quit led her to push to compete that day, and resulted in her standing on the podium winning the Bronze.
Even after all of this success she never lost sight of her dream to become an astronaut. In 2014 she was selected to be a part of the first graduating class of Project PoSSUM, which put her one step closer to her dreams. Going into the program, she thought everything would be difficult. She isn’t a pilot, (yet.) She had never been in a simulator. She hadn’t even played video games since she was 8 years old. Understandably, she felt like the underdog. However, when going through her astronaut training, it was the first time that things came easily. There wasn’t a struggle. There was support. There were tears. There was a joy. After training in Florida, she knew it was right. In 2616, she was selected and participated in the NASA Human Exploration Research Analog at Johnson Space Center as a Misson Specialist.
Jonna is now looking forward to going to space on a commercial space flight and doing scientific research. A real astronaut, teaching us all that dreams really can come true.