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April 17, 2014

EKU Rogers Explorers meet NASA astronaut

2012 Eastern Kentucky University Rogers Explorers

Rogers Explorer Kara Beth Williams of Beattyville couldn’t believe she was talking to a real-life astronaut.

“How long are you in space?” she asked four-time space shuttle astronaut Bob Cabana in a live interactive videoconference from Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) in Richmond.

Williams, a student at Lee County Middle School, said it was “awesome” to learn Cabana—once pilot of the Space Shuttle Discovery—spent 16 consecutive days in space.

Twenty-nine students from across Southern and Eastern Kentucky got to personally meet Cabana, ask him questions about his space missions, and learn more about the NASA space program on July 19 while attending The Center for Rural Development’s Rogers Explorers summer youth leadership program on the EKU campus.

This was the first summer class of Rogers Explorers to participate in a live videoconference with a former NASA astronaut and hear about his experiences.

“The NASA videoconference was neat and a unique learning experience,” said Rogers Explorer Davis McCracken from Wayne County. “It was really cool to talk to a real astronaut!”

Cabana, director of NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center, has flown on four space shuttle missions, serving as pilot on two separate Discovery missions and former commander of space shuttles Columbia and Endeavour—the first International Space Station assembly mission.

The videoconference, brought to students by The Center’s CenterNET2 videoconferencing network, was one of many activities Rogers Explorers participated in during the three days and two nights on the EKU campus.

The Rogers Explorers program encourages students to build their future careers in some of the most challenging and in-demand career fields: science, math, and technology.

Sarah Dickens, 14, who will be a freshman at Taylor County High School this fall, said she was undecided about her future career until she attended Rogers Explorers.

“After going through the program,” Dickens said, “I realized that I want to be a dermatologist.”

“The Rogers Explorers program helped me to improve my leadership skills, particularly in the communications class,” added Russell County High School student Clay Ackerman. “I also was able to experience an outstanding engineering class, which really helped my science and technology skills.”

Rogers Explorers were on the EKU campus from July 18-20 and graduated on the final day of the program. Each graduate received a certificate acknowledging their participation and completion of the youth leadership program.

“It is encouraging to see these students in the Rogers Explorers program have their eyes on the future,” said Delaney Stephens, youth programs coordinator and community liaison for The Center. “By participating in this program, they have the unique opportunity to receive hands-on instruction in today’s high-demand math and science careers.”

The Rogers Explorers program is presented by The Center, a nonprofit organization based in Somerset, to rising ninth-grade students within its 42-county primary service area in partnership with the University of the Cumberlands, Lindsey Wilson College, Eastern Kentucky University, and Morehead State University.

“The Rogers Explorers program would not be possible without the willingness from the colleges and universities that host Explorer students, and The Center is very grateful for their support in helping the youth of Southern and Eastern Kentucky,” Stephens said.

Rogers Explorers graduating from this summer’s EKU session and their respective home counties are as follows:

  • Lauren Wethington—Casey County
  • Nick Alevras, Evan Hensley, and Aaron Smith—Clay County
  • Kaitlin Jenkins—Harlan County
  • Parisa Shamaei Zadeh—Johnson County
  • Craigory Coppola, Auston Kirk, and Sammy Griffin—Lincoln County
  • Kara Beth Williams—Lee County
  • Kennedy Harbison and Sarah Deckard—Metcalfe County
  • Ashlin Trivett and Avery York—Monroe County
  • Sarah Estep, Lillie Eastham, Aubrey Kelley, Lauren Maynard, Shea Minton, Savannah Muse, Brian Rutherford, Molly Smith, and Ashley Wahlman—Pulaski County
  • Clay Ackerman—Russell County
  • Jilly Bruns, Sarah Dickens, and Danielle Dickens—Taylor County
  • Davis McCracken—Wayne County
  • January L. Moore—Wolfe County

Click here to view more photogaphs from the Rogers Explorers summer youth leadership program on the EKU campus.

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