Two Blaine High School students launch into leadership academy

Three – two – one… Blast off!

Students space camp: About to take a leap, Rylenn Hathaway gets set to scale a 40-foot pole and then jump. The exercise was part of Honeywell’s Leadership Challenge Academy at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Photo courtesy of Chera Cruze

Students space camp: About to take a leap, Rylenn Hathaway gets set to scale a 40-foot pole and then jump. The exercise was part of Honeywell’s Leadership Challenge Academy at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Photo courtesy of Chera Cruze

A pair of Blaine High School students launched leadership ambitions into the great beyond when they attended the Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy Feb. 26 through March 9 at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Rylenn Hathaway, a BHS junior, and Elijah Bouwman, a sophomore, each won scholarships to attend the academy, and each touched down with increased awareness of what it takes to be an effective leader.

According to Honeywell spokesman Joe Duraes, the Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy is designed in partnership with the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and provides students with a unique opportunity to engage in sessions addressing current issues in science, technology and engineering (STEM).

“The week-long program is designed to develop their capacities through hands-on challenges and build their leadership skills,” Duraes said.

Blaine High School students sophomore Elijah Bouwman each won a scholarship to attend the Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. Photo by Sue Austreng

Blaine High School students sophomore Elijah Bouwman each won a scholarship to attend the Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. Photo by Sue Austreng

Those skills were developed when students engaged in interactive activities and workshops that were created to enhance their leadership fundamentals.

Among those activities, students simulated jet-fighter pilot training; designed, built and tested their own rockets; and got to meet with top scientists, engineers and former astronauts to reinforce core leadership competencies and listen to first-hand accounts of professional experiences.

“It sounds kind of nerdy at first, but it really was kind of cool,” Hathaway said after returning from the leadership academy to her Coon Rapids home.

Bouwman agreed, saying, “The week was just amazing. It was a phenomenal time.”

Hathaway and Bouwman were among some 254 students from 30 different states and 30 countries from around the world to attend the leadership academy.

In addition to the development of leadership skills, the international friendships formed during leadership academy week are sure to enhance the students’ perspective.

Hathaway said she plans to maintain e-mail or Facebook correspondence with leadership academy students she got to know from England, China, Germany and Venezuela.

“It was great to spend time with students from so many different countries,” said Hathaway. “I definitely plan to keep in touch.”

Hathaway, who plans to study psychology after finishing high school, especially enjoyed the leadership academy workshop in which she helped to create a solution to extract DNA and then examined that DNA.

“We extracted the DNA and then examined the genes. I liked the genetics – that was really cool and lots of heredity stuff plays into psychology, so that really fascinated me,” Hathaway said.

For Bouwman, building a heat shield during his stay at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center was especially enjoyable.

“My ambitions are to become an engineer and I really appreciated working with students from around the world to do that project,” said Bouwman, who said students from Mexico, Ireland and England were among those in his small group during the academy.

“There was great value in bouncing ideas off of each other and working together. I really thought it was great to see how others think, how their culture affects their ideas.”

Bouwman got to simulate his engineering ambitions when he played the part of engineer during a simulated space mission during the leadership academy.

Bouwman and Hathaway both appreciated the speakers who addressed the leadership academy students.

Among those speakers were former astronaut Capt. Robert (Hoot) Gibson and propulsion expert Tim Pickens.

“Their speeches really were ‘you can do it’ messages,” Bouwman said.

Bouwman left the academy feeling that his desire to become an engineer “isn’t just a pipe dream,” he said.

Hathaway also found great value in the speakers’ messages. “They really helped us to dream big and don’t think you can’t do it,” she said.

Lift off!

Since 2010, Honeywell and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center have awarded more than 630 scholarships to students after rigorous application and review processes based on their academic achievement and community involvement.

All junior and senior level high school children of full-time Honeywell employees are eligible to apply.

Bouwman’s dad is a Honeywell regional sales leader for the south district of the United States; Hathaway’s stepfather is a Honeywell technician for navigational systems.

Financial contributions from Honeywell employees help fund the scholarships, which include tuition for the week-long program, meals, accommodations and program materials.

“Honeywell is a proven leader when it comes to promoting educational programs for children around the world,” said Dr. Deborah Barnhart, executive director and CEO of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. “The Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy is another example of corporate commitment to prepare the next generation of engineers, scientists and explorers. The U.S. Space and Rocket Center is proud to work with Honeywell on this project and we are honored to teach and share with the young people entrusted to us.”

For more information on the Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy program, visit http://leadership.honeywell.com.

Sue Austreng is at sue.austreng@ecm-inc.com


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