Q: What is your experience with STEM education and how has it translated to your career or personal life?
Ben: “I’ve been involved in math and technology my entire life. Working in business and investing required constant application of math and the majority of my work career has been during a time that all data was being converted to digital. Nowadays, financial analysis and modeling all requires a working use of math and technology. However, the biggest impact STEM had on me was through my father. My dad graduated from the US Naval Academy as an engineer and was a career Naval Officer. When he retired from military service, he went to GE and worked as an engineer until he once again retired. After his 2nd retirement, he volunteered at an elementary school in Massachusetts in science and math. He was always interested in passing along his passion and knowledge in STEM to the next generation.
Q: How did you learn about the Challenger Learning Center of Kentucky in Hazard?
Ben: When my parents passed away, I wanted the money, for which they had worked so hard, to go to interests they had in their life. My Dad’s volunteer work at the elementary school made a big impact on the kids he had worked with and he loved that so much that I decided to support that school. Eastern Kentucky had made a huge impact on me and I decided to research what might be going on there in STEM education. I asked my friend and associate Danny Maggard from KY River Properties and he introduced me to the Challenger Learning Center there. I did my homework by checking out their website and talking with their Director, Tom Cravens. I thought they were doing terrific work in making kids aware of STEM careers and giving them hands-on experiences that would show them what those careers might be like. I think they’re doing important work for eastern Kentucky and I wanted to help them in their mission.”
Q: How do you think a program like the Challenger Center would have benefited you growing up?
Ben: “I wasn’t all that interested in school when I was a youngster. Hands-on education programs like the Challenger Center might have changed all that and got me excited about school. I was always interested in learning but not school. I needed to focus on something real rather than theoretical. I think a lot of kids are like that and the Challenger Center uses practical, real-world methods of teaching and learning.”
Q: How do you think STEM outreach programs like Challenger can benefit students in rural areas?
Ben: “It exposes them to the world outside of eastern Kentucky and shows them possibilities that they might not have thought about before. They learn about new technologies and new opportunities they never knew existed. Programs like the Challenger Center can benefit kids anywhere and not just eastern Kentucky. Disadvantaged kids in nearby Philadelphia are in desperate need of programs such as this. They are in the same need to envision themselves outside of their current environment and to learn new skills as the kids in eastern Kentucky.”
Q: How do you hope the gifts you have donated to the Challenger Center of KY will help students?
Ben: “I hope I can help open up doors of opportunity for the region’s young people. I think kids in eastern Kentucky are just as smart and capable and students anywhere. They just need to be made aware of the opportunities that exist and to develop a pathway for getting there which includes academic instruction and practical, hands-on learning. I think the Challenger Center provides many of the tools they need for success. I’m glad to be part of that and my Dad would be too.”
Thank you Ben Auger!!