Challenger program receives $1.4 million in state funds
A proposal to develop a science and space education program in Indiana County got a boost this week when local legislators announced the program will receive a state grant for $1,365,000.
The funding to establish a Challenger Learning Center at Indiana County Technology Center in White Township was one of a number of Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grants OK’d by Gov. Tom Corbett.
“This is great news for our area,” said state Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, in a release. “In fact, this challenger center will serve school districts in 22 counties and be a resource for field excursions that put students in touch with innovative math and science curriculums.”
“It’s clear we need to encourage our next generation to think seriously about careers in math and science as that knowledge base is critical to our economic vitality. It’s also proposed to be sited at the Indiana County Technology Center, so it will have a great synergy for our region on a number of levels.”
The Challenger Foundation, which promotes space and science education, authorized about 50 learning centers around the world and has approved an application supported by every school district in Indiana County as well as a number of districts from neighboring counties. The overall cost is anticipated to be between $7 million and $8 million.
“This program will be a tremendous educational resource for large numbers of students locally and in our region,” said House Speaker Sam Smith, of Punxsutawney. “The curriculum will challenge students in new and innovative ways and prepare them for rewarding careers in the math and science fields. We are very fortunate to have this program based in our area. This grant is a great win for the region and we will all benefit from the educational opportunities it will provide our students.”
“I’m very excited with the announcement of the Challenger Center being the recipient of these funds. The leaders of this initiative are to be commended for their tireless efforts in securing this funding,” said state Rep. Dave Reed, R-Indiana. “For years we have known that Indiana County schools deliver the highest quality of education possible. With that in mind, this facility will further enhance our children’s education opportunities; especially in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”
State Rep. Jeff Pyle, R-Ford City, agreed. “As a former public educator, I recognize and understand the importance of inspiring students at a young age through innovative approaches to education,” he said. “The development of the Challenger Center will provide school districts, locally and from a wide range of nearby areas, with a facility that hopefully stirs the imagination of young people and sparks a life-long interest in science education.”
“This is a special project in many ways,” White said. “This may have started within and with the energy of schools and leaders in Indiana County, but has quickly grown into a much larger initiative as advocates reached into neighboring counties to solicit the necessary support to make the Challenger Center a truly regional project. This grant is a win for the region and we will all benefit from the new educational opportunities that it will provide our students.”