HAZARD, Ky. – Joshua Ball, associate executive director of Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR), has been named to the board of directors of the Challenger Learning Center of Kentucky.

Ball was appointed to a three-year term ending in December 2021.  The Challenger Learning Center located on the campus of Hazard Community and Technical College, has been providing informal STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programming for school districts and students throughout eastern Kentucky since 1999. 

Ball joins a board made up of regional leaders from education, business, government, and medicine who are interested in STEM development in our region and building a more highly skilled workforce for tomorrow. 

“We are very pleased to have Josh join the Challenger Center board,” said Tom Cravens, director of the Challenger Learning Center of Kentucky.  “His knowledge of this region, along with his experience in higher education, workforce development, and community and economic development, will help focus the Challenger Center on the important skills development needed for our young people to attract those high-paying STEM careers.  He is a natural conduit for connecting our business community with STEM education in the region.” 

Ball said the role of facilities such as the Challenger Learning Center play a critical part in the transformation taking place across Appalachia Kentucky.

“The team at the Challenger Learning Center have a demonstrated track record of providing cutting-edge and relevant STEM education opportunities to children throughout the region,” said Ball. “Everything around us, in some way, shape or form, is driven by technology.  Providing opportunities for children to learn and explore may seem basic at its core, but it can have a transformative effect on a child. I firmly believe that our children harness the ingenuity and desire to use technology to transform Appalachia Kentucky.”

The Challenger Learning Center of Kentucky is one of 43 Challenger Learning Centers located worldwide that was started in memory of the Challenger Space Shuttle astronauts who lost their lives in the 1986 space shuttle disaster.  This flight was NASA’s “Educational Mission” with teacher Christa McAuliffe aboard.  Challenger Learning Centers carry on this crew’s educational mission 33 years later by introducing students to exciting STEM education programs that inspire and motivate students to pursue careers in those fields. 

In addition to Ball, other newly-appointed Challenger Learning Center board members include:

·       Michael Cornett. Director of Agency Expansion and Public Relations with the East Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP)

·       Robin Gabbard, Executive Director of Teach for America

·       Dr. Molly O’Rourke, Pediatrician at Primary Care Centers of Eastern Kentucky