Ellen Ochoa was born in Los Angeles, California, on May 10, 1958. She was the middle of five children to Joseph and Rosanne Ochoa. They raised their family in La Mesa, California.
Joseph was the son of Mexican immigrants and grew up speaking both English and Spanish. He experienced discrimination as a child and wanted to protect his own children, so he decided Ellen and her siblings would not learn to speak Spanish.
Rosanne only had a high school diploma when she started her family. However, she highly valued education and started college when Ellen was still a baby so she could set a good example for her children.
As a child, Ellen loved to read and her favorite subject in school was math. She excelled in school and won her county’s spelling bee at the age of 13. Ellen was also interested in music and started playing the flute when she was 10 years old.
Joseph and Rosanne divorced when Ellen was in middle school. She put all her energy into school and music to keep herself occupied during this emotionally difficult time.
Ellen graduated from high school in 1975 and was her class valedictorian. Stanford University offered her a full scholarship because of her high grades, b