McAuliffe Elementary School Challengers past and present gathered together this week in Oceanside to celebrate 30 years since the school’s dedication.
The celebration honored the school’s history and celebrated what students and staff love about their school past and present. The event was set up to replicate the original school dedication in many ways, with all students and staff even wearing visors with the same design used on opening day.
The Christa McAuliffe Challengers name was chosen in honor of the teacher and astronaut who died in the 1986 Challenger space shuttle explosion. Christa McAuliffe was part of Ronald Reagan’s Teacher in Space Project aimed at raising interest in the space shuttle program and sending an educator as the first civilian to go to space. After being selected from a process with more than 11,000 applicants, she took a leave of absence from teaching at Concord High School in New Hampshire to prepare to go teach lessons from space. She was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.
Students took time to share what that name means to them, and even got to hear messages from former students who now work in the space industry.
One student read a message sent from alum Josh Kenchel stating, “At McAuliffe, I was always encouraged to explore my interests and think big. You can trace a path directly from there to where I am now. To the current students at McAuliffe, I say to never stop thinking big.”
After the ceremony, people like Sue Wilson, a teacher who worked at McAuliffe from day one and retired at the school, shared memories at a reception as a video played from the original dedication. Wilson said that to her, the school means, “a lot of good friends, a lot of happiness and a lot of enjoyment,” and that she enjoyed reconnecting with old colleagues.
The message of 5th grader Scottie Smith was that she sees the inspiration that Christa McAuliffe brought to our nation alive in the school today.
“All the work our teachers do for us will help us change the world and have a bright future,” Smith said. “I can’t think of a better way to honor Christa McAuliffe’s memory than that.”