The Portland Board of Public Education and Superintendent Xavier Botana recently recognized Evan Peaco, a 2014 Portland High School graduate who was the keynote speaker at a National Space Club dinner in Washington, D.C. on March 10. Peaco is studying aerospace engineering at the University of Maryland in College Park.
The recognition took place at the board’s March 21 meeting. Botana said, “We encourage Portland Public Schools students to reach for the stars – and that is what Evan is doing, quite literally.”
The event where Peaco spoke was the 60th annual Goddard Memorial Dinner, at which he was awarded a $10,000 Goddard Memorial Dinner Keynote Scholarship. He was chosen from among over 7,000 candidates that submitted applications. Peaco rose to the top of the competition with his strong academic record and experience in aerospace. His impressive list of honors and accomplishments include being named a National Merit Scholar and receiving the school’s prestigious Banneker/Key Scholarship.
At the dinner, Peaco got to meet astronaut Buzz Aldrin and Jeff Bezos of Amazon, along with people from NASA.
In his keynote address at the National Space Club event, Peaco said that he has always loved gazing at the moon and Mars ever since childhood, and then began trying to figure out how to build a spaceship. He came to realize it was more involved than the model rockets he built as a kid, so he has applied himself to acquiring the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) knowledge needed to help advance the world’s manned spaceflight capabilities. Peaco now believes that, working collectively with others, his generation will be the first humans to set foot on Mars.
Botana noted that Peaco said that Portland High School prepared him for his career by not only helping him to become an engineer, but also a well-rounded engineer. Peaco said many of his teachers were exceptionally able to engage students in the material they were teaching, and also cared about the success of every student individually. In addition to engineering, he said PHS provided him many other opportunities, in civic engagement, the arts and sports.
Peaco also appreciated the diversity he found at the Portland Public Schools. He believes that progress in space will only be possible if the people of the world work together in ventures such as the International Space Station.
Botana congratulated Peaco on his accomplishments. Botana also told Peaco that he expects “you’ll go far in life – all the way to the stars!”
Peaco thanked the board and Botana and said that the public speaking skills he acquired at PHS helped him prepare for addressing 2,000 people at the dinner.
He added, “I really love public education and I’m glad we have so many people dedicated to the cause here today.”