Blogs  |  1.27.2016

Challenger Center Student Returns to Become Flight Director

Challenger Center

I was eleven years old in the summer of 2001, when the first Challenger Learning Center in Illinois opened its doors – right in my hometown of Woodstock, Illinois. The first school mission didn’t run until September of that year, but the Center debuted its summer camps before then, and I was part of that first group of campers. I admit that, as a middle schooler with no interest in attending summer camps of any kind, I went to camp that week fully expecting not to enjoy myself! Instead, the impression those five days of camp made on me would last a lifetime. Before then, I never considered that I would have an interest in activities like model rocketry and robotics, let alone find them enjoyable. Of course, the simulated mission was an experience that I’ll remember forever. Two summers’ worth of camps later, I knew I wanted to return in some capacity when I was old enough to do so.

When I was in high school, I was able to come back to summer camps at our Center, this time as a volunteer. I also helped out whenever I could during the school year, with special events that we had on evenings and weekends. I picked up a number of skills through my time as a volunteer, from building and launching rockets to learning the ins and outs of a mission.  I was then hired on as a summer camp assistant during my summer breaks while I was a student at the University of Minnesota.

I initially decided to stay in Minneapolis after graduation, but less than a year later I was offered the position of Lead Flight Director by our then-Executive Director. I moved back to Woodstock in July of 2013 and have held the position ever since.

“I walked into our building in 2001 as a student and never quite managed to leave.” – Rebecca

It’s difficult for me to say precisely what the impact our Challenger Learning Center has had on me, because it has been part of my life for so long. Essentially, I came of age along with our Center. I have known all of our Executive Directors and Lead Flight Directors, as well as most of the teaching staff we have had over the years. From them all, I have learned essential leadership and teaching skills that I now employ when running a program or mission. My experiences here have shaped me in innumerable ways, and I know that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the opportunities I have been offered through this Challenger Learning Center.

We have seen mounds of changes at our center over the past fifteen years. In addition to the space mission, we had a flight simulator, and in 2006 an exhibit room was constructed in one half of our building. In the spring of 2015, we were fortunate enough to merge with Aurora University after fourteen years as a stand-alone center. Our exhibit room and the flight simulator are now gone, replaced by a state-of-the-art digital Starlab. Being a witness to all of these changes, both large and small, has offered me a unique perspective as Lead Flight Director. As we move into our fifteenth year, it is my goal to continue the mission of those who came before me and live up to the Challenger legacy.

-Rebecca Dolmon, Lead Flight Director
Challenger Learning Center for Science & Technology