Fueling Future Minds

February Connections 2024

Growing up in the picturesque Lakes Region town of Alton, Alec O’Meara was very familiar with the local PBS high school game show, GRANITE STATE CHALLENGE. “I remember watching GRANITE STATE CHALLENGE and Channel 11. When I was a kid, we only had three networks, and Channel 11 was the best channel,” said O’Meara. “All of my favorite shows as a kid were on: Sesame Street, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and Doctor Who. I would watch anything that was on public television, and that included GRANITE STATE CHALLENGE.”

These days, O’Meara not only watches GRANITE STATE CHALLENGE but is involved in several aspects of the show in his role as external affairs manager at Unitil, which has been one of GRANITE STATE CHALLENGE’s biggest corporate sponsors since 2015.  O’Meara has recorded the special power questions, which are used in the show, and he’s in the studio during the SuperChallenge taping. O’Meara said, “I get the opportunity to hand out the trophies to the runner up and the champion.”

In 2015, O’Meara’s boss was from Massachusetts and wasn’t familiar with the program, but when she told him Unitil was looking to support GRANITE STATE CHALLENGE, O’Meara recommended that she jump at the chance. “I mentioned that would be a tremendous opportunity. I told her this show is part of the culture of the state,” said O’Meara. 

“I always say this is one of my favorite partnerships that Unitil is a part of because it’s such a special and complete partnership,” said O’Meara. “I feel like we really get to be involved with just about every piece of the competition.  For example, we’ve had several employees participate as proctors during the Super Sunday qualifying event,” when hundreds of students representing their high schools gather to take a grueling qualifying test. This is the first step for students who dream of taking their place on the iconic GRANITE STATE CHALLENGE set and putting their knowledge to the ultimate test.

“This partnership is a nice fit with what we try to do with our philanthropy and our overall company goals,” said O’Meara. Unitil looks for opportunities to show support in its communities through education and STEM initiatives. “There aren’t a lot of opportunities for academics to represent their school in a competitive format, and that’s what we see in GRANITE STATE CHALLENGE,” said O’Meara.

The competition is about to heat up this February. The 42nd season of GRANITE STATE CHALLENGE premieres on Thursday, February 8th at 7:30 PM on NHPBS. To keep up with how teams are doing, go to nhpbs.org/gsc for all the latest highlights.

“When the competition is close, and it’s getting down to the final two or three minutes of the championship game, and victory is within reach, there’s the same sort of tension in the room that you would associate with a close basketball game,” said O’Meara. “There’s anxiety, and there’s relief, and there’s joy, and it’s wonderful to see.”

Pictured: Alec O'Meara interviewing coaches from the 2023 winning Merrimack team. Photographed by Mark Bolton.

About New Hampshire PBS: New Hampshire PBS inspires one million Granite Staters each month with engaging and trusted local and national programs and services on-air, online, via mobile, in classrooms and in communities. Beyond its award-winning television programs, New Hampshire PBS is a leader in education and community engagement. www.nhpbs.org

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