Since 1986, the Challenger Center for Space Science Education has established almost 50 Challenger Learning Centers throughout the United States. Each center offers students, teachers and their communities the opportunity to study and pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (“STEM”) and become real-world problem solvers as they share the excitement of learning through simulated NASA space missions.
Challenger programs are based on common core STEM curriculum and include two days of teacher preparation, six weeks of classroom instruction and a trip to the Challenger Center to “fly” a mission at a cost of approximately $25 per student.
Today we are excited at the prospect of developing a Challenger Center right here in Indiana County.
To date, our local Challenger committee has received resolutions of support from Indiana, Cambria, Armstrong and Jefferson counties, and from the Homer-Center, Indiana, Blairsville/Saltsburg, Marion Center and United school districts. Each district has demonstrated its support for Challenger by donating $1 per student, which represents less than one-eighth of 1 percent of each individual school budget.
The money we have collected has been used to fund our Challenger application fee. If our application is approved, we will be known as the Central Allegheny Challenger Learning Center, a Pennsylvania nonprofit organization serving approximately 22 counties in western and central Pennsylvania. Funds to build and sustain the center will be raised from foundations and corporations interested in STEM development and state and federal grant money.
Historically, Challenger Centers have become vital participants in the economic and workforce development of the communities they serve. Our center will be well prepared to provide the students of our region with the academic foundation and skills they will need to compete for the highly technical jobs being created in our region right now in the oil, gas, coal, education, finance and health care industries. We believe it will be a valuable resource and attraction for all of our region, especially Indiana County.
Julia Trimarchi Cuccaro
chair, Challenger Committee Ambassador Group
• EDITOR’S NOTE: This letter was signed by other members of the ambassador group: Vicki Smith, Homer-Center school board president; B. Edward Smith, Blairsville/ Saltsburg school board president; Thomas R. Harley, Indiana Area school board president; Hilliary Creely, Indiana Area school board member; and Walter A. Schroth, Indiana Area school board vice president.