WHEELING, W. Va. (WTRF) – “When you love what you do, anything is possible.”

Jackie Shia, Director, Challenger Learning Center

That’s Jackie Shia’s message to all young girls out there. 

At Wheeling University’s Challenger Learning Center, Jackie is the director, and her and her staff members have one thing in common – They are all female. 

“You know, our goal is to show girls that they can be anything they’d like to become and to ignite them to think about different types of careers for women that traditionally weren’t something that they thought about.”

Jackie Shia, Director, Challenger Learning Center

The Challenger Learning Center started after the tragedy of the Challenger Mission, with the intent to send teacher, Christa McAuliffe, to teach from space. They have carried on her legacy by allowing students to come in and become astronauts for the day. 

Jackie says that we can see what a difference has been made by looking back to the last moon landing in 1972, where the crew was entirely men. 

“For such a timeframe, women were not in this type of arena and so now we’re looking at women engineers and scientists and astronauts, where with the crew for the Artemis Mission, you’re going to see your first woman to go into space and your first person of color. So, we’re showing the world that things are changing and that there’s opportunities for everyone to pursue their dreams.”

Jackie Shia, Director, Challenger Learning Center

She also says that it is typical for launces like the Artemis to not pan out if all systems are not a go, but similarly to our life experiences, and especially those of being a woman in STEM, in the near future this setback will push us ahead in the end. 

Once the Artemis Mission launches, our first crew back to the moon will begin working on a Space Camp, which will serve as our base when exploring deeper parts of space in the future. 

The Challenger Learning Center is truly a hidden gem, and it’s right here in West Virginia. 

“You know, women is a major component of who we want to inspire, but we really want to inspire all students to be able to realize what their opportunities are.”

Jackie Shia, Director, Challenger Learning Center

I guess you could say – this is one small step for women, and one giant leap for womankind.