CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — West Texas A&M University’s McNair scholars program is getting a $1.3 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

“It’s super exciting. It’s also a great continuation of the program,” said Victoria Salas, Director of the McNair Scholars Program. “We’ve had McNair since 1999, and so we have a long legacy of success to continue.”

Salas tells us the funds will be used to support student research, paying for everything from projects to travel expenses to present the research at a conference.

Salas told us the main goal of the program, “to create future researchers, so students that are going on for their masters, specifically PhD or doctoral studies.”

The program is named after Ronald McNair, a NASA Astronaut and Physicist. He was a history maker, becoming only the second African-American to fly in space. He was one of seven crewmembers who died when the challenger exploded shortly after launch on January 28, 1986.

Much like McNair, Salas says the program serves educational trailblazers.

“They have to have 60 hours, at least a three point GPA, and then of course, a strong desire to go on into graduate school and then they have to satisfy either first generation low income or underrepresented status,” she explained.

Salas said they currently have 15 students in the program, and most of them are from the Panhandle, and even though it’s a research grant, a STEM major isn’t a requirement.

“We’ve had dance majors, we’ve had students with graphic design, students that have done like rhetorical criticisms, and then kind of brought in that as well. So it’s a broad spectrum of majors and students that we serve,” she emphasized.

All of it, to help students reach new heights.