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Seal of the Governor
For Immediate Release: July 29, 2023
Contacts: Office of the Governor: Macaulay Porter, Macaulay.Porter@governor.virginia.gov

First Lady Suzanne S. Youngkin Announces July 2023 Spirit of Virginia Award Recipient

~ The Governor and First Lady presented a Spirit of Virginia Award to Virginia Space Flight Academy on Wallops Island, VA on July 28, 2023 ~

RICHMOND, VA-Governor Glenn Youngkin and First Lady Suzanne S. Youngkin today presented the Spirit of Virginia Award to Virginia Space Flight Academy, an education nonprofit partnered with NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility that furthers youth STEM instruction through afterschool programming and summer camps.

“Training young Virginians to ‘shoot for the stars’ is happening right here at the Virginia Space Flight Academy,” said First Lady Suzanne S Youngkin. “The Commonwealth, through the Virginia Spaceport Authority, owns and operates one of only four sites in the U.S. that is licensed for vertical launches and today we celebrate The Academy’s decades-long dedication to NASA-inspired, education and imagination.”

“Virginia Space Flight Academy is honored and privileged to be a recipient of the Spirit of Virginia Award,” said Kim Check, Executive Director of Virginia Space Flight Academy. “This honor comes at a very special time for us as we celebrate 25 years in operation. We are excited about our potential for growth as we continue to provide students with hands-on, dynamic experiences centered around space flight exploration, and we are so grateful to the Governor and Mrs. Youngkin for recognizing our efforts so far.”

Virginia Space Flight Academy was established in 1998 on Wallops Island, Virginia. Since its founding, the Academy has encouraged over 6,000 students to pursue space and STEM careers through their summer space adventure camps and year-round classroom programming. Historically, over half of students attending the programs have been residents of Virginia.

The Academy has bolstered their program offerings through partnerships with national players in the space industry. They recently renewed their Space Act agreement with NASA for a five-year period, which allows campers behind-the-scenes access at NASA’s flight facilities on Wallops Island.

As part of their two-day visit to the Eastern Shore, the Governor and First Lady visited Island Creamery, winner of USA Today’s poll for Best Ice Cream Shop in America, to pick up ice cream for Academy campers and their families. Arriving on horseback and with first responders, they also attended the world-famous Chincoteague Pony Swim festivities for the second consecutive year. In addition, the Governor, alongside legislative and local leaders, gathered at the fairgrounds for the ceremonial signing of legislation designating the Chincoteague Pony as the official state pony of Virginia.

The Spirit of Virginia Award recognizes unique qualities and standout achievements across the Commonwealth and salutes Virginians for their uncommon contributions in private industries, education, culture, the arts, and philanthropy. 

The Governor and Mrs. Youngkin will present three more Spirit of Virginia Awards in 2023. , including past recipients. To learn more about the work of Virginia Space Flight Academy, visit the organization’s website.

All recipients of the Spirit of Virginia Award will be recognized during a holiday reception at the Virginia Executive Mansion to take place at the end of the year.

Follow the First Lady on Facebook and Instagram as she celebrates Virginians all across the Commonwealth. 

Governor and First Lady with group of students

First Lady Suzanne S. Youngkin and Governor Youngkin and Virginia Space Flight Academy celebrate the Spirit of Virginia on Wallops Island, VA, July 28, 2023. Photo by Shealah Craighead Photography.

First Lady giving remarks at podium

First Lady Suzanne S. Youngkin delivers remarks at Virginia Space Flight Academy on Wallops Island, VA, July 28, 2023. Photo by Shealah Craighead Photography.

Governor and First Lady listens to remarks

Space Flight Academy student delivers remarks at Virginia Space Flight Academy on Wallops Island, VA, July 28, 2023. Photo by Shealah Craighead Photography.

First Lady with students

First Lady Suzanne S. Youngkin poses with the ladies of the Virginia Space Flight Academy on Wallops Island, VA, July 28, 2023. Photo by Shealah Craighead Photography.

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