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Challenge Program winners!

MEYERSDALE - After a year hiatus, the Challenge Program Inc. returned, in-person, to Meyersdale Area High School for their annual assembly. Program Development Manager Alex Ickes and business partner Craig Staresinich came bearing gifts - $2,000 in cash prizes! The theme for this year’s program is  “Visualize Your Future - Why Not You?”


Since 2003, the Challenge Program Inc. has been contributing to workforce and economic development by connecting business and education to achieve a common objective: the development of a skilled and motivated future workforce. The Challenge Program, Inc.’s mission is to build sustainable Business/Education partnerships while motivating students to develop good habits required to succeed in school and in their future careers. The Challenge Program, Inc. carries out its mission through in-school assemblies and ceremonies, workforce development activities, and continuous communication between businesses, educators and students. Through the generosity of Staresinich, the program has been able to award $2,000 annually for several years to MAHS students in five areas of achievement. These five areas include Attendance, Academic Improvement, Academic Excellence, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and Community Service. 


Staresinich is the only individual who sponsors these annual awards through the Challenge Program. In most cases, schools partner with businesses and corporations. However, following his own success story, Staresinish said he has committed his retirement to serving others and he is proud to include MAHS in his work. Following high school, he enrolled in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. Following graduation in 1969, he was hired by the Manned Spacecraft Center, which later became known as NASA. During his time at NASA, Staresinich worked in Mission Control. In 1983, Staresinich was hired by TRW (later acquired by Northrop Grumman) to build satellites, some launched aboard the Space Shuttle. He was later named Vice President and Program Manager at Northrop Grumman. His extensive resume includes work on the Chandra X ray Observatory built for NASA and launched aboard Space Shuttle in 1999. 


Staresinich said the work ethic and character traits celebrated by The Challenge Program are attributes that helped his own personal success and that of many of his colleagues. He encouraged students to “create a vision board or plan for what you want to do and then take the steps to make it happen.”


“Set goals for yourself and make decisions and choices that will help you make those goals happen,” he added. “The power of thought is so powerful. Decide what you want and make a plan to get there.”


To help students understand this year’s theme, several MAHS students, Lars Murray, Conner Shuck, Maci Moore and Shelby Hetz,  volunteered to provide trivia and a skit to illustrate the power of visualization. 


At the conclusion of the program, the following students, now seniors, were recognized as the recipients of the awards: Lydia Renzi, Attendance; Ethan Simpkins, STEM; Melanie Riether, Community Service; Jesse Werner, Academic Improvement; and Elizabeth Sayler, Academic Excellence.


The following students, now juniors, were also honored for their achievements: Matthew Diehl, Attendance; Anna Hartman, STEM and Academic Excellence; Smanatha Schardt, Community Service; and Devyn Shaulis, Academic Improvement. 


Each student received a certificate in addition to a check for $200 for their outstanding work.  For more information on the work of this initiative, please visit


Challenge Program volunteers