Diversity & Inclusion
STEM / Universities / Workplace culture / Youth

Montco Community College wants to get middle schoolers into STEM, space exploration

With the new Challenger Center partnership, the college hope to serve about 7,000 local students in its first year, with a special emphasis on underrepresented and underserved populations in the area. 

Two students at the Challenger Learning Center at Scobee Education Center, San Antonio College. (Courtesy photo)

The national STEM nonprofit Challenger Center has been looking to put down roots in Pennsylvania, and will be able to do so in a new partnership with Montgomery County Community College beginning this year, the orgs announced Wednesday.

The Challenger Center, which has a network of locations across the country, offers hands-on science and tech programing for young students with a goal of exciting kids about the topics and connecting them to future careers. The org was originally created by Challenger families to honor the crew of shuttle flight STS-51-L, the final flight of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Accordingly, many of its activities simulate space exploration and flight direction.

The org will be setting up shop at Montco’s Pottstown campus in the fall, and serve students in fifth through eighth grades. The orgs hope to serve about 7,000 students in its first year, with a special emphasis on underrepresented and underserved student populations in the area.

“The Challenger Learning Center will not only introduce students to STEM, but it also will inspire them to pursue higher education, hopefully in STEM fields, that will lead them to high-demand careers with family-sustainable wages,” said MCCC President Victoria L. Bastecki-Perez in a statement. “This workforce pipeline will help Montgomery County and the region during this time of economic recovery.”

(“Family-sustainable” is a phrase similar to one we’ve heard before in the STEM workforce development world: “Life-sustaining” jobs are said to offer long-term possibility, a high pay rate, benefits and opportunity for growth.)

Students at the Challenger Learning Center at Scobee Education Center, San Antonio College. (Courtesy photo)

Lance Bush, president and CEO of the Challenger Center, said in an email that the org has always wanted a partner in the Philadelphia metro area, and it was clear MCCC was the right fit.

“They immediately understood the impact a Challenger Learning Center would have in the area, and we were impressed with their engagement with the K-12 community and local STEM ecosystem,” he said.

Bush added that the orgs consider the students the region’s future workforce, and it’s critical they have the opportunities to discover all the possibilities of a career in STEM.

“These students will be the ones who go to Mars, find cures for diseases, and invent new technologies,” he said.

The Center is expected to open in the fall in the College’s Sustainability and Innovation Hub Building, and will host the Center’s traditional programing, plus summer camp programs, elementary school programs, professional and corporate development as well as teacher training, it said.

Companies: Montgomery County Community College

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