When Judy Resnik stepped foot in Fairlawn Elementary School in Akron for the first time in the mid-1950s, she probably wasn’t thinking about the perfect SAT score she would achieve in high school.
She may not have thought she would be the second woman in the nation to be launched into space, surrounded by stars, the entire Earth within her view.
And it’s unlikely she thought the very elementary school she attended every day would eventually be renamed in her honor.
Thirty years after the fatal explosion of the space shuttle Challenger that resulted in Resnik’s death, elementary school students and community members gathered Thursday to commemorate the famed astronaut in the Judith A. Resnik Community Center in Akron.
Resnik was born in Akron in 1949, and she remained there until she graduated from Firestone High School in 1966. She was among the seven who perished aboard the Challenger, which exploded just moments after takeoff on Jan. 28, 1986.
On Thursday, excited children piled into the gymnasium, decked with galactic art projects and a large image of Resnik herself. Previously Fairlawn Elementary, the school was rebuilt and named in her honor in 2006.
The assembly, led by principal Tammy Brady, showcased elementary students who talked about Resnik’s life and what they learned about her in school.
“We work hard to make sure students know about her to build a sense of community,” Brady said. “It’s awesome to have someone from your hometown that you know so much about.”
The students have been doing a range of activities throughout the week to learn about Resnik and similar missions, including watching a movie about her first space mission on the maiden voyage of Discovery, reading books about space and doing related art projects.
“I learned her trips weren’t easy, and she knew what she was doing really well,” said fourth-grader Nick Cribbet, who was among select students that read segments about Resnik’s life during the assembly. He said his older brother was trying to convince him to be an astronaut so they could be the first brothers on the moon.
A few children wrote stories that they presented, including first-grader Henry Manahan, 6, who said if he were an astronaut he would “fish for stars.”
Brady said they learn about Resnik not only because she’s a hometown hero, but also because she was an inspiring figure who exemplified hard work and respect.
“We really do live that here,” Brady said. “I feel very proud of our students. They believe in what they say.”
The assembly concluded with an original song the second-graders sang and danced to that talked about Resnik. Brady said all the students learn the song in kindergarten.
At the end of the song, the whole gym chimed in, vocalizing Resnik’s legacy that still rang through those halls:
“Judy Resnik never needed a rocket. She grew wings of her own long before.”
Theresa Cottom can be reached at 330-996-3216 or email@example.com.