Challenger Learning Center Selects Site for Future Learning Center
June 26, 2023
The Advisory Council formed to lead the effort to bring a Challenger Learning Center to Northeast Alabama has selected a location in Rainbow City for the future site of the STEM education facility. The Council reviewed multiple proposals to identify the best location for what will become the state’s only Challenger Learning Center.
The future Challenger Learning Center will be part of the Challenger Learning Center network that has reached more than 6 million students worldwide. Challenger Learning Centers offer a variety of hands-on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs, with the core being its simulated space-themed missions that take place in a fully immersive Spacecraft, Mission Control, Briefing, and Transport rooms. Aligned with national education standards and informed by real science data, these missions excite students about STEM, introduce them to careers in various STEM fields, and help them build critical 21st-century skills. Challenger Center was created by the Challenger shuttle families to honor the crew of shuttle flight STS-51-L. There are currently 35 Challenger Learning Centers across 24 states and three countries.
The future Center will be located on five acres by the Rainbow Middle School and John S. Jones Elementary School, across from the Etowah Mega Sports Complex, and down the street from Westbrook Christian School. The Center’s location will be conveniently accessible to Interstates 59 and 759, US 411, and AL 77. The future Challenger Learning Center will serve students in Blount, Calhoun, Cherokee, DeKalb, Etowah, Marshall, St. Clair, northern Jefferson counties, and surrounding areas.
Rainbow City Mayor Joe Taylor and Rainbow City Council members released the following statement before the decision was made public: "Our support proposal for the Challenger Learning Center is proof that when we work together, we can achieve great things. We cannot wait to see the incredible opportunities that this collaboration will bring to our City."
Barry Cherry, Chairman of the Advisory Council, stated, “A Challenger Learning Center is an opportunity for all cities and counties in the seven-county service area to engage with businesses, corporations, and the community to support our children in STEM learning and career and workforce readiness.
In addition to donating the land for the future Challenger Learning Center (valued at $450,000), the Rainbow City Council has approved additional resources that will help make the Center a reality, including site preparation (valued at $175,000), site groundskeeping, $10,000 a year for 7 years, and a School Resource Officer. Their total contribution is valued at between $700,000-$800,000. Additional funding commitments have been received including:
- $8,500,000 from the State of Alabama
- $200,000 from the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama –comprised of $50,000 from the Educational Impact Fund for the simulator reservation fee and $30,000 a year for five years for operational support from the Phillip A. Sanguinetti and Elise A. Sanguinetti Scholarship Fund.
- $100,000 from the Etowah County Commission -- $25,000 a year for 4 years
- $25,000 from the City of Attalla -- $5,000 a year for 5 years
- $25,000 from the City of Hokes Bluff -- $5,000 a year for 5 years
- $10,000 from the Etowah County Community Development Committee District 28
- $10,000 from the Etowah County Community Development Committee District 29
- $10,000 from the Etowah County Community Development Committee District 30
The Advisory Council created to bring a Challenger Learning Center to Northeast Alabama appreciates the public support of the citizens, municipalities, the State of Alabama, CFNEA, and legislative delegations of northeast Alabama in securing funding for this educational initiative. Application and design of the facility is expected to be completed in the last half of 2023 with construction to begin in 2024.
To help support the future Challenger Learning Center in Northeast Alabama, you can donate online at this link: https://cfnea.fcsuite.com/erp/donate/create/fund?funit_id=3300 or send a check to the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama (CFNEA), 1130 Quintard Avenue, Suite 100, Anniston, Alabama 36201. CFNEA is serving as the fiscal sponsor for this endeavor.
About the Advisory Council
In 2022, an Advisory Council was formed to spearhead the possibility of opening a Challenger Learning Center in Northeast Alabama. The Council comprises 14 businessmen and women working together to ensure feasibility, garner stakeholder support, fundraise, and facilitate the application and build process for the future location.
About the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama
The Community Foundation uses donor gifts to grow funds that benefit the community forever. Each year the Community Foundation awards $2-3 million in grants and scholarships throughout the nine counties it serves in Northeast Alabama. We make philanthropic dreams come true. Our mission is to achieve positive change through the generosity of donors, now and for generations to come. Learn more about the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama at www.cfnea.org.