Challenger takes flight at Heritage

The Challenger Eagle visited Heritage on Tuesday, October 11. The presentation demonstrated the importance of charity to students in a unique way.

Challenger was rescued by humans during a storm in 1989, when he was only a baby. After two attempted releases back into the wild, Challenger was determined to rely on humans too heavily. He was then placed in the care of the American Eagle Foundation (AEF), who decided to name him after the Challenger Space Shuttle, in honor of those who passed away on that fateful flight.

Students who got the chance to see the eagle seemed to be really entertained by him.

“I really enjoyed learning about our nation’s bird. The work that they’re doing for the birds makes me want to get out and make a change,” says Olivia Biggers ’17.

Challenger soon became an American icon thanks to the AEF when he began performing free-flights during the Star Spangled Banner at major events. He was the first eagle to perform like this, and he has appeared at several MLB World Series, presidential inaugurations, NFL games and quite a few well-known TV showsㅡfrom Good Morning America to the David Letterman show.

A parent suggested having Challenger make an educational visit while he was in town to Assistant Principal Jill Schrader, since the school mascot is an eagle.

“The foundation likes to take a 30 minute educational program to a local school and have the bald eagle perform and discuss the care and preservation of these majestic birds,” says Schrader.

Challenger’s story ended up teaching students about the value in helping their communities as well.

I had not heard their story before about how and why they started the foundation until they spoke yesterday.  After hearing it, I immediately thought how well it tied in with Mike Smith’s message at the beginning of the school year. I hope that students see that it doesn’t take much to make change happen within their school or community,” adds Schrader.

To learn more about the AEF’s birds and support them through donating or virtually adopting one of their birds, visit


Challenger spreads his wings on command for the crowd.


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