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HOMER-CENTER: Visitors to high school promote Challenger Center

by JULIA BUGGEY, Gazette Student News Reporter on January 24, 2014 11:00 AM

HOMER CITY —Homer-Center High School’s seventh- and eighth-grade students recently attended an assembly to promote and steer children toward strengths in the career areas of science, technology, engineering and math.

Taking place on Jan. 10, the interesting assembly introduced the young students to Leland Melvin, NASA astronaut, and Lance Bush, head of the Challenger Learning Center organization. Bush, a Homer-Center native, and Melvin came to the school in hopes of sparking the interest of the audience in the scientific and mathematical fields. Promoting learning isn’t always easy to children, especially ones at such a young age.

[PHOTO: NASA astronaut  Leland Melvin shared pictures of his missions, like this one, with Homer-Center High School students during a recent visit. (Submitted photos/Homer-Center High School)

Nonetheless, Bush told his listeners, “Math and science can be fun — that’s the whole point.” 

Alongside Bush, Melvin shared pictures of himself suited up as an astronaut to the kids and handed out some autographs as well. These educators are looking for support of their ideas, bringing about the proposal to open a Challenger Learning Center in Indiana County. These centers have already started trending throughout the nation as Bush’s organization has placed them in 26 states and several foreign countries.

So, what exactly are these centers and why are they being proposed? The buildings are full of experiences that can’t be offered within the parameters of a classroom. The hands-on, simulation-based problem solving techniques bring the learning of the students to life, providing an opportunity for their knowledge to grow.

An additional purpose of the learning centers is to expose children to these specified career choices, inspiring them to pursue a career that can go far beyond the life in a small town. Many think that the centers are a great idea, giving students the gift of vision, inspiration and innovation, including our school board president, Vicki Smith.

Smith, also a part of the Indiana County Technology Center committee, is all for the addition of a Challenger Center. Indiana County school districts have already covered the initial application fees for the project which will be named the Central Allegheny Challenger Learning Center.

As for the near future, the planning begins with the cost to build the center, estimated to be about $3 million; in addition to the center, a STEM Academy (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) may also find its place in Indiana, costing an extra $2 million.

Smith greatly encourages the project not only for Homer Center’s students, but for everyone, saying, “We are committed. We’ve got the excitement, we’ve got the students, we’ve got the teachers — we just need to make it happen.”

If all goes well and the plans are approved, these new facilities will be built in a lot directly across from the ICTC building, looking to be completed in 2015.

As for school district involvement and activities, Homer-Center’s FBLA club will be receiving money for colorful flowers in the following weeks as their annual carnation sale is underway.

On an ending note, Tuesday brought all of the first semester classes to a close; we now continue to venture into the second half of the year, with report cards to be distributed in the early days of this coming week. Looking ahead in the school’s activities, in early February the students will have CDT examinations and those that plan to perform for district band will be traveling fairly soon.

Well, that just about wraps up the school news for this month of January so far and this previous week. Be sure to tune in next week as school enter the third-quarter of the year, introducing spring sport preparations and other various school activities.

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