For Immediate Release:
March 30, 2017

Primary Media Contact:
Sally Voth
Public Relations Specialist
[email protected]
Phone: 540-868-7134

Peter Harrison

After Peter Harrison graduates with his associate of science degree from Laurel Ridge this spring he’ll be spending the summer studying rocket science. The Clarke County resident has recently learned he’ll spend 10 weeks interning with NASA at the Langley Research Center.

Harrison, who dual-enrolled at Laurel Ridge in 2014 while being homeschooled, was selected for the STEM Takes Flight at Virginia’s Community Colleges program. He will be working with a NASA researcher on solar sail hardware materials.  Peter Harrison

“A solar sail is something you put on a rocket to use the energy from photons from the sun to propel it into deep space,” Harrison said. “You might use it if you’re trying to get to a planet that’s really far away, or doing mining missions on an asteroid.”

Harrison will receive a $5,000 stipend during the internship.

“I’m excited,” he said. “I always kind of thought it would be awesome to work for NASA, but I never thought I would get the opportunity to do that.”

Following his internship, Harrison will transfer to Liberty University where he will get a degree in science. He’s not yet sure what career path he will take.

“I would like to do something with chemistry, but I’m not sure what that is yet,” he said.

Growing up, Harrison enjoyed watching science-related programs, and said his Laurel Ridge professors have really had an impact on him. Ray Rogers, an assistant professor of physics, was actually a NASA research scientist before coming to Laurel Ridge.

“All the professors and classes were just a lot of fun,” Harrison said. “[Chemistry Professor] Dr. [Sam] Dillender has really kind of been an inspiration to me in my decision to pursue chemistry. The first time I came into class for chemistry 111, he told us that after his faith and his family, that we were most important to him. He just came in with this big smile and was so excited to teach us.”




Founded in 1970, Laurel Ridge Community College is a multi-campus public institution of higher education. With three locations — Middletown, Warrenton, and Luray-Page County — the College serves eight localities in the Shenandoah Valley and northern Piedmont regions. The localities are the counties of Clarke, Fauquier, Frederick, Page, Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Warren and the city of Winchester. Laurel Ridge offers more than 75 associate degree and certificate programs in a wide variety of disciplines, in addition to providing access to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs offered on site by a four-year institution. Laurel Ridge also serves the business community by offering workforce preparation programs for employees and employers. Laurel Ridge serves more than 9,000 unduplicated credit students and more than 11,000 individuals in professional development and business and industry courses annually.

Laurel Ridge Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award associate degrees. Laurel Ridge Community College also may offer credentials such as certificates and diplomas at approved degree levels. Questions about the accreditation of Laurel Ridge Community College may be directed in writing to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, GA 30033-4097, by calling (404) 679-4500, or by using information available on SACSCOC’s website (

Laurel Ridge Community College is an equal opportunity institution providing educational and employment opportunities, programs, services, and activities. Laurel Ridge shall promote and maintain equal employment and educational opportunities without regard to race, color, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions including lactation, age (except when age is a bona fide occupational qualification), status as a veteran, national origin, or other non-merit factors. Laurel Ridge also prohibits sexual misconduct including sexual violence or harassment. Inquiries may be directed to the Associate Vice President, Human Resources, [email protected]173 Skirmisher Lane, Middletown, VA 22645, 540-868-7226.

Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.