Challenger Center fundraising gets $500,000 donation

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Planetarium Coordinator Bob Kelley looks as a crane removes roof debris July 10 on the west side of Scobee.   Photo by Ingrid Wilgen

Planetarium Coordinator Bob Kelley looks as a crane removes roof debris July 10 on the west side of Scobee. Photo by Ingrid Wilgen

Vaughn Construction works on the renovations of   Scobee Planetarium with the addition of the Challenger Learning Center Wednesday. Renovations are estimated to finish October 2013 at a total cost of $10 million, David Mrizek, vice president of college services, said.  Photo by Riley Stephens

Vaughn Construction works on the renovations of Scobee Planetarium with the addition of the Challenger Learning Center Wednesday. Renovations are estimated to finish October 2013 at a total cost of $10 million, David Mrizek, vice president of college services, said. Photo by Riley Stephens

By OSITA OMESIETE

sac-ranger@alamo.edu 

A $500,000 donation has been received from Valero Energy Foundation toward the $7 million the college is trying to raise for construction of the Challenger Center. The college has raised $850,000 so far, public relations Director Vanessa Torres said Nov. 2.

Groundbreaking for the Challenger Center at this college was May 2, and the center is expected to open in the fall.

The center will wrap around Scobee Planetarium increasing its square footage from 3,950 to 21,519.

With multiple items such as a space station simulator, a gift shop and a mission control room, the Challenger Center and planetarium will entertain as well as educate, David Mrizek, vice president of college services, said.

Renovations to the outer shell of Scobee Aug. 1  Photo by Ingrid Wilgen

Renovations to the outer shell of Scobee Aug. 1 Photo by Ingrid Wilgen

Challenger Learning Centers are programs to equip students with knowledge, confidence, and skills to better themselves and the nation, reports the official website for the Challenger Center.

The first learning center was opened in Houston in August 1988 by families of the crew that were lost from Space Shuttle Challenger/STS-51L, which exploded 73 seconds after liftoff Jan. 28, 1986.

Of the 45 learning centers, three are in Texas. One is in San Benito, one is in an observatory at Brazos Bend State Park in Needville, and one is in the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Vaughn Construction performs asbestos abatement Aug. 8, on Scobee.  Photo by Riley Stephens

Vaughn Construction performs asbestos abatement Aug. 8, on Scobee. Photo by Riley Stephens

Mrizek is confident the college will raise enough funds to fund the center.

“We are working to bring in $5 million for construction and $2 million to set up an endowment,” Mrizek said.

Mrizek said the principle of the endowment would be invested in the Alamo Colleges Foundation.

Mrizek said this is the first time the college has raised funds for a building of this scale.

The capital campaign is led by a committee of 22 volunteers, who have agreed to help raise funds.

“Basically you go out and ask people to give you money,” Mrizek said in defining a capital campaign.

Professional fundraiser Bonnie Gittinger is training this committee to raise funds, Mrizek said. Charles E. Cheever Jr., chairman emeritus of Broadway Bancshares Inc., chairs the committee.

The campaign is currently in the quiet phase, Mrizek said, where the committee speaks with contributors who have the capacity to give and are interested in supporting the project.

Mrizek said he has hopes that it will not have to reach the public phase, where the college hosts bake sales and events of that nature.

He said he’s calling the Challenger Center a “pipeline” to help get people interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, known as STEM.

The center is a comprehensive attempt to attract people to STEM education, Mrizek said.

For more information, contact Mrizek at 210-486-0937.

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