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July 10, 2007 > Galaxy Explorers celebrate 10th anniversary

Galaxy Explorers celebrate 10th anniversary

On July 8, Chabot Space & Science Center's teen volunteer and intern program, Galaxy Explorers, will celebrate its 10-year anniversary with a reunion of Explorers past and present at the Center they helped to forge. The program was launched with 35 students in 1997, when Chabot's Skyline Boulevard location was merely a construction site.

"At first, we were busing youth (14 and under) from community centers and providing them with science-related internships at places like the Lake Merritt boathouse," said Chabot's programs director, Etta Heber. We still have very specific goals about helping low-income students ramp up their science education and provide them with jobs that would help serve that purpose. But what we've learned from all the feedback over the last 10 years is that we've been providing life-altering experiences for students from all walks of life."

Galaxy Explorers' alumni have matriculated to dozens of colleges and universities, including MIT, UC-Berkeley, Cal Poly, Air Force Academy, Howard, UCLA, USC, UC-Santa Cruz and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Many of the alums returning for Sunday's 6-9 p.m. reunion at Chabot mentored current Galaxy Explorers. Since its founding, the program has more than quintupled to 188 members and expanded its enrollment to students of all income levels.

"Learning how to stimulate younger students as a Galaxy Explorer shaped my own learning attitude," said Jessica Lam, a Piedmont High graduate who recently completed her junior year at MIT. I've locked myself into a permanent state of exploration."

Originally funded by a three-year grant from YouthALIVE! a national youth learning and education network, Chabot's inaugural chapter named itself Giants of Science. Heber and Lisa Hoover - who was on the planning committee and became the group's manager in 1998 - worked out of a cabin and, later, a trailer during the organization's formative years. When Chabot Space & Science Center opened its 86,000-square-foot facility on Skyline Boulevard atop the Oakland hills in August 2000, the group became Galaxy Explorers.

With the name change - and a state-of-the-art facility to call home - Galaxy Explorers evolved rapidly. Today, the fully grant-funded program provides 13- to 17-year-olds with a hands-on, interactive science education. In turn, Galaxy Explorers provide Chabot with thousands of hours of volunteer time annually, performing live public science demonstrations, explaining exhibits and assisting with science workshops. Veteran Galaxy Explorers are eligible for a paid internship program and alums are eligible to become seasonal employees at Chabot.
The hallmark of the program, however, is a peer-to-peer mentoring program in which Galaxy Explorers share their love of science with other students at schools, community centers and other off-site locations.

"I've been told time and time again by teachers who have brought Galaxy Explorers into their classrooms that their students didn't know that science could be so cool," Hoover said. This isn't mixing test tubes. This is mind-expanding science at its most creative. It's the future."

"It's hard to fathom a time when students like me with a passion for science had no place to direct that energy," said Tiffany Phu, a rising sophomore at Oakland's Skyline High who followed her sister, Connie, into Galaxy Explorers. Ten years from now, I'd like to attend the 20th reunion and tell kids that they can be whatever they want to be if they follow their dreams. It's never too soon to do that."

Chabot Space & Science Center
10000 Skyline Blvd., Oakland
(510) 336-7300

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