Going to the National Science Foundation ITEST Summit was the best experience any school program has given me. Not only did I grow and learn as a CSO, but as a person. When we boarded our plane at MBS, I was terrified. I didn’t know what to expect. I wondered how many people would be there, if the adults in the room would be judgmental towards us students, if I was dressed nice enough, who would be attend and what their role was in the community, and how the CSOs from Arizona we were about to meet were. Once we arrived in DC and rode the Metro to our hotel in Alexandria Virginia, we met the other four CSOs from Arizona. They were awesome, being able to have other students with us as we presented was great, and they really made this trip even better than it would have been.

The first day at the conference I introduced the keynote speaker, Mathew Nurse, Vice-President of the Nike Explore Team Sport Research Lab. I was very nervous but ended up doing a good job. On Monday we also had a chance to meet with Megan Smith, the Chief Technology Officer under the Obama administration; she talked to us about different parts of STEM. We all learned a lot from her. The conference ended around seven that night, but we didn’t stop there. All of us stayed up until ten to practice our presentations for the next day.

Tuesday morning, everyone was nervous. All six of us presented on different aspects of the CSO program. Luckily, we had the ability to network on Monday, so we knew many people in attendance at the conference and learned that the adults were excited to learn about our program and weren’t judging us at all. All of our presentations went over well, and everyone was impressed and glad to learn about our program. Around three in the afternoon, we all went to Washington, D.C. to go sightseeing. We went to the Air and Space Smithsonian where we learned about how STEM has impacted our nation throughout the years and then we went on a night time tour of the monuments.

Wednesday was when Michigan and Arizona CSOs went their separate ways to meet with our State Representatives from the House of Representatives. We met with Congressman Kildee and Congressman Moolenaar. These were both amazing experiences to share information about our program. Both congressmen and their assistants were eager to learn about what we were doing to increase STEM interest in our schools and community. While we were at the Capitol, we were able to go on a tour and we had Gallery Passes so we could see the House Chamber.

The entire time we spent in D.C. and at the ITEST Summit were extremely beneficial not just as a CSO, but also as a person. With several opportunities to network, I was able to practice my elevator pitch and become more confident in introducing myself to other professionals. On this trip I have also greatly increased my ability to public speak, not being nearly nervous about standing up before a crowd as I was before the summit.

I am very grateful to have had this experience. This trip helped teach me skills I will need as I go on in life working in a STEM career, and for life in general. For all future CSOs who may have the opportunity to go on a trip like this, I strongly encourage it. Even though I missed a few days of school it was worth it to have this experience.

Mackenzie Jean-Marcoux
Chief Science Officer
John Glenn High School

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