Whole New World

First-hand account from student participant in the Chief Science Officers Program

Editor’s note: The Chief Science Officers Program, a collaborative initiative of the Arizona Technology Council Foundation and Arizona Commerce Authority, recently brought together members from Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Oregon, as well as Kuwait and Mexico for its CSO International Summit in Washington, D.C. The event gave the students opportunities to position themselves in front of key national decision-makers, share best practices as an international cabinet and build synergy among the regional leaders. Caillou, a senior at Skyline High School in Mesa, shares his observations on how this event has helped shape his life. 

Phoenix, Ariz. – Oct. 7, 2018 at 12:35 a.m.

“Please prepare the cabin for door closure.” The loudspeaker boomed with the captain’s voice as we prepared to take off from Sky Harbor International Airport. I knew this was going to be exciting. I knew that this was an opportunity of a lifetime but what I didn’t know was the extent of how this opportunity would impact me.

One year after my attendance at my first Arizona leadership training, I was chosen to be a part of the Leadership Council, becoming someone who aids in the development of future trainings. Only months after that, I was selected to represent my school, community and state at the CSO International Summit (CSOIS) in the nation’s capital. I was on my way!

Washington, D.C. – Oct. 7, 2018 at 9:53 a.m. 

“Welcome to Washington, D.C., and thank you for choosing American,” the captain boomed once more. I exited the plane still in awe as my brain struggled to comprehend that I was in the capital of the United States. As we headed to grab our luggage, a surprise awaited as two students who earlier had traveled 16 hours from Kuwait were waiting and holding signs welcoming our arrival. At this moment, it began to sink in that for the next week I would be surrounded by the brightest students our generation has to offer.

The CSOIS officially kicked off with a delegation including members from other states and countries. Throughout the week, we were continuously challenged as we met with STEM industry and policy leaders ranging from the director of the National Science Foundation to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy as we journeyed to learn how to create positive change. 

Yet, no matter whom we met — whether it was Megan Smith, the chief technology officer of the U.S., or staff at Google’s D.C. headquarters — the message was clear: Anyone from any background regardless of race, ethnicity or demographic could make an impact on the world around them. All they had to have was drive and to be bold.

Dr. Jeremy Babendure first created the CSO program with the hope of empowering students to use their voice to influence changes in STEM education. Today, it has accomplished just that. It wasn’t until 11 years after I had enrolled in public school did I feel that I — a student and one of education’s most important constituents — could drive change in education. I am happy to say that because of the CSO program, I have drive and am not afraid to be bold as I tackle the challenges of STEM education head-on.

Phoenix, Ariz. – Oct. 12, 2018 

The CSOIS completely changed my life as I learned how to communicate in a team, as well as how to market the fact that everyone can make a difference in their own communities. The summit opened my eyes to a world of innovation and excitement that I had never seen before while being surrounded with a diverse student delegation. There is no doubt in my mind that the future is bright. It is because of the commitment and strive of director Dr. Babendure and COO Kelly Green that I now have unwavering passion to make the world a better place. I will not back down. I will not give up.

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