As I sit here having finally caught my breath from a wonderful whirlwind Alumni Weekend, I can’t help but reflect on the past 6 months and where we’ve been as a new “alumni movement.” While looking over my shoulder at the runway behind us, it’s hard to resist looking skyward with child-like excitement on what the future may hold in store.
We’ve accomplished much since late February when the Space Camp Alumni Advancement Board was formed and shortly thereafter the launch of the Space Camp Alumni Association. Right out of the gate this alumni community made it’s presence felt with a wonderful outpouring of support for the IndieGogo crowd funding campaign in support of the new Shuttle Training Aircraft exhibit in Shuttle Park. Over $70,000 in 60 days! That’s truly amazing and my hat is off to the alumni community for banding together and playing a major role in that success – one that we’ll soon all enjoy as the STA makes the journey to Huntsville this Fall.
As a follow-up project, the AAB and broader alumni community stepped up to help in so many ways – from bringing kids to camp via scholarships, to the preparations for Alumni Weekend, to a significant summer endeavor – providing staffing support to the Center and Camp to facilitate a large presence at EAA AirVenture 2014 in Oshkosh, WI. Our goals have remained constant: to bring the alumni community together and to bring the Camp experience to more kids.
While on the ground for the week at AirVenture, the AAB connected with every decade of Camp alumni including current NASA aviators, alumni who serve as active duty members of the Air Force, families and individuals from our campuses around the globe and even graduates from the week before! Onsite volunteers from the Alumni Association, included alumni from Aviation Challenge, Space Camp and Space Academy and the Honeywell Teachers Academy. We welcomed guests from EAA Young Eagles, Boys and Girls Club of America, ESA, NASA, U.S. Air Force, and Women in Aviation, to relive or experience the multi-axis trainer. We even had one of the original teacher scholarship recipients visit us and tell her how meaningful the Christa McAuliffe Scholarship experience was for her, to this day, nearly a decade after her retirement from teaching.
In the weeks leading up to and through the week in Oshkosh, “Team F-16” rose up from the alumni community to work on a restoration project at Aviation Challenge. The efforts of a vast community that included members of the AAB, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, and the Space Camp Hall of Fame as well as students from Tuskegee University, and several employees and interns from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center prepared the F-16 for it’s dedication to the storied Tuskegee Airmen.
Which brings us to Alumni Weekend, which many of us were so fortunate to participate in this past weekend. This past weekend the Space Camp Hall of Fame inducted three new members to its ranks: Kaya Tuncer, founder of Space Camp Turkey, Michelle Ham, founder of Higher Orbits, and Samantha Cristoforetti, astronaut with the European Space Agency. The AAB recognized several members of the community for their efforts to-date and the silent auction that night opened the doors for more kids to attend Camp this year. Most significantly, however, we were all able to gather at Aviation Challenge with dignitaries from State of Alabama and the Armed Forces for the dedication of the F-16 Red Tail to the Tuskegee Airmen. Seven of the surviving Tuskegee Airmen attended the event in person this weekend and stood proudly, sharing their stories with the several hundred of us in attendance.
It’s been quite a first 6 months!
We’re learning as we go – and building out numerous initiatives and channels for all alumni to be involved and give back to the institution that we all hold so dear. I was touched and heartened this past weekend by the genuine passion and excitement expressed by so many in the alumni movement and the goals and outcomes we’ve envisioned for our future endeavors.
Thanks extend to you all for your support, interest, and commitment to making a difference for current and future generations at Space Camp. Together, this community of 650,000+ can do remarkable things. I anxiously await the next steps in this awesome journey we’ve undertaken together.
Ad astra per alas fideles,
Space Camp Alumni Advancement Board