Monday, May 10, 2004

Volunteer set to launch space-camp program



By Janet Wetzel
Enquirer contributor

For decades Linda Neenan has worked to enhance the lives of children, both socially and academically.

[img]
Linda Neenan works at her desk in her Symmes Township home.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
She served on the Sycamore Schools planning committee and helped start a school foundation to provide funding for programs not budgeted. In the mid-1990s the former teacher, who gave up her career to raise her three daughters, started an after-prom program to help keep students safe. She's served as a court-appointed ProKids advocate and volunteered for years at the Mental Health Association of Cincinnati.

Now she's embarked on her biggest project ever - helping start iSPACE, a hands-on space and aeronautics center with a mini space camp, slated to open next year. Neenan, who is president and acting director of the group, works 60-70 hours a week to research programs, write grant proposals, and help raise $2 million of the estimated $3 million start-up costs.

Pat Rosenberg called Neenan, a Symmes Township resident, "one of the most energetic, passionate, generous women I know. She motivates people to do their best. She initiates projects ... and always follows through. Her word is golden."

The seed for the center was planted in the mid-1990s after she agreed to be the school foundation's volunteer executive director, provided she could promote science, math and technology education.

"They agreed, since it's hard to get cheap help," quipped Neenan, who along with her husband, Ed, are volunteers in their All Saints Church Parish in Kenwood. The resulting Technology Day started at Sycamore High School and led Neenan to initiate a system-wide outer space program in 2000 called Scientific Experiences Expanding Knowledge. The year-long project included a one-week space camp to get students excited about science, math and technology.

"That particular project lit a spark in me and the students," highlighting the interest and need locally for hands-on science projects, she said.

Neenan and a small group of teachers, scientists and engineers began investigating how to fill the void. iSPACE, tentatively set to open in September 2005 at Great Oaks Institute of Technology and Career Development, Sharonville, was born. Open to individuals and groups, initially the main focus will be the Challenger Learning Center, developed by NASA, serving about 10,000 annually. Total programming should serve 100,000 a year.

"I have a permanent bump on my head from beating my head against the wall. But I get walls torn down," she said.

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Do you know a Hometown Hero - someone in your community dedicated to helping others? E-mail Janet Wetzel at jjwetzel@siscom.net or fax to (513) 755-4150.




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