SAN ANTONIO - A brand new school has been named after a woman who helped shape America's history. On Thursday, Southwest ISD dedicated the new Judith A. Resnik Middle School.
Judy Resnik was one of the NASA astronauts killed in the 1986 challenger explosion. It's been 30 years since the Challenger space shuttle broke apart, just one minute and 13 seconds after it launched. The seven crew members, including Resnik, were killed.
"I was watching on television and I knew instantly there was a problem, so it was hard on everybody," said Resnik's niece, Vicki Reppert-Altounian, who was in college at the time.
Reppert-Altounian still feels strong pride that her aunt was one of NASA's first six female astronauts, and the second American woman in space.
"At the time, it was very surreal because it was such a pioneering moment," Reppert-Altounian said.
"She hit the ground running. She knew as one of the first women astronauts, she had a little bit of something to prove, but it didn't take long for her to show her stuff because she was so brilliant," said Sylvia Salinas Stottlemyer.
Stottlemyer worked with Resnik at NASA and they quickly became best friends.
"If you knew Judy, you would know that education was at the top of her list," Stottlemyer said. "On a personal note, she badgered me into going to college until I went and it shaped my career.
Stottlemyer continued to work at NASA for a total of 35 years. That's why she's so grateful Southwest ISD named its new middle school school after Resnik.
Throughout the entire school, there are photos of Resnik and her Challenger team, not only to remind students of the sacrifice they made, but also to inspire them.
"I think if she were here today, she would be saying 'Go for it. Do the best you can. Education is so important. Stay with it,'" Stottlemyer said.
Stottlemyer is grateful her best friend's legacy will live on in such a unique way.
During the school's dedication ceremony, Reppert-Altounian and Stottlemyer read quotes from Resnik. One said, "People you consider to be heroes are really quite like yourselves. Only hard work and perseverance will help you to succeed at any venture."
"I think she's made her mark," Stottlemyer said with a smile.
Southwest ISD has three other middle schools named after Challenger victims. Those are Sharon Christa McAuliffe, Ronald E. McNair, and Francis R. Scobee middle schools.
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