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Published: Tuesday, 4/13/2010

Perrysburg students have out-of-this-world trip

Three down-to-earth Perrysburg High School students recently participated in a series of space-age experiences, such as learning how it feels to walk on the moon.

Erick Dommer and Abu Zafar, both 17 and juniors, and senior Colin Bilski, 17, were among nearly 160 students from 28 states and 20 countries who were selected to attend the inaugural Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. Other Ohio students included two participants from Chagrin Falls and Urbana.

Spending time with students from other countries was a high point of the five-day academy, said Erick. "I liked meeting all the people from around the world and learning about their cultures," he said. Erick, who has been active in soccer and track and is a member of a church basketball team at Loar Lutheran, is considering an aerospace career. His father Tom Dommer works at Honeywell.

Applicants wrote essays about why they wanted to attend the academy and what they hoped to learn, Erick said.

The academy was similar to a program Abu participated in last year in Washington, but teams then had 40 members compared to 16 during the Honeywell academy. Smaller teams were more conducive to getting to know each other better, Abu said. "There was more team bonding," he said, and he and Erick both said they have stayed in touch with people they met while in Huntsville.

Days were long, with students getting up and getting going on various projects and activities at 7 a.m., and lights out typically occurred about 11 p.m.

Colin said he particularly liked experiencing G-force. "That was cool," he said.

Also, Colin said, he liked the flight aviation challenge. "We worked as a team to complete a mission," he said. His father Gary Bilski and Abu's father Zafar Hussain work at Honeywell.

Honeywell's Leadership Challenge Academy, created in partnership with the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, provided students with an opportunity to participate in sessions addressing current issues in science, technology, and engineering. Students also honed their leadership skills.

Colin said skits were presented to show how to be assertive rather than being too aggressive or too passive. He is a member of the tennis and cross-country teams, Student Council, and the art club. Abu is involved in video production, linked to The Cellar, the school's online literary magazine.

Simulated astronaut training, including a realistic shuttle mission and experiencing what it is like to walk on the moon, were part of the academy.

Students met with scientists, engineers, and former astronauts to reinforce core leadership competencies and provide them with first-hand accounts of professional experiences.

High school-aged children of full-time Honeywell employees were eligible to apply. Financial contributions from Honeywell employees help fund the scholarships, which covered tuition for the weeklong program, meals, accommodations, and program materials.

The Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy is part of Honeywell Hometown Solutions, the company's corporate social responsibility initiative, which focuses on issues related to family safety; housing and shelter; science and math education, habitat and conservation, and humanitarian relief.



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