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Challenger Learning Center Recognizes First Challenger Champions

During a special reception at the Challenger Learning Center at Paducah May 15, Garrett Garneau and Gammon Long of Paducah were recognized as the first Challenger Champions.

This is a great honor to be one of the first Challenger Champions, and I hope it contributes to more people doing this and being interested in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, said 19-year-old Garneau.

The new program honors outstanding individuals like Garneau and Long that have attended the program during their childhood and then gone on to support the center as they got older. Challenger Champions are also college or career oriented with an interest in science, technology, engineering and math.

Both young men volunteered at the center for various summer camps and were great male role models, showing the kids it is cool to like science, said CLC Director Mellisa Duncan.
Garneau and Long remember their first CLC experiences with appreciation and have now moved on to new paths that continue their love of science.

When Garneau was in the fifth and sixth grade at Clark Elementary School, he made his first visits to the center with his science classes. Rendezvous with a Comet and Return to the Moon missions made a lasting impression on him. I always enjoyed things about space as a kid. The Challenger Learning Center provided me with hands-on experiences that made science concrete for me.

Now majoring in business with a minor in neuroscience and creative writing at Vanderbilt University, Garneau hopes to someday write a science fiction novel. I want to write a book that sends a scientific message that will also help people learn about science.

On his first trip the CLC, 20-year-old Gammon Long remembers his class from Concord Elementary also flying a mission to intercept a comet. I think I dreamed of space exploration and travel for weeks after. As I grew older, my dreams evolved into more, said Long. I began looking at space travel from a different perspective. I no longer wanted to be the guy in the space suit but the guy who builds the rockets that go in space.

A junior at Mississippi State University majoring in aerospace engineering with an emphasis in astronautical engineering, Long said he is getting closer and closer to seeing his dreams coming true.

Being here today means a lot because Ive always had an interest in pursuing the aerospace field and now that Ive been able to help inspire other people to do that with working in the camps, Im being lifted back up again by the Challenger Center like I was in the fifth grade, said Long.

A new Challenger Champion will be honored each year as the CLCs version of a Hall of Fame continues to grow.

For more information about the Challenger Learning Center at Paducah located on the campus of West Kentucky Community and Technical College, visit clcpaducah.org.

Registration for summer and fall classes at WKCTC is also underway. Call 1-(855) GO-WKCTC or visit westkentucky.kctcs.edu for class offerings. Fall classes begin August 17.