Arizona is pioneering an innovative approach to encourage young minds to not only pursue a career in science and technology but lead the way in making a positive change for the world.
It’s called the Chief Science Officer (CSO) program, the brainchild of Arizona SciTech, created and designed here in the Grand Canyon State. It has spread to nine other states, and this summer it has gone global by connecting students from Kuwait and Sonora, Mexico, with their industrious peers in Arizona.
The concept: Students in grades 6-12 are elected by their peers to be liaisons and leaders for science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, in their schools and in their communities. Almost two-thirds are female.
They attend leadership training summits and develop projects, such as giving STEM demonstrations to students in lower grades, starting school clubs to engage other students in STEM, and organizing community events or campus challenges. Arizona students have taken the program to the White House, extolling its virtues to the president.
Earlier this summer – July 16-19 – 20 students from Kuwait and 15 from Sonora, Mexico, joined 200 Arizona Chief Science Officers at the CSO Summer Leadership Institute at Arizona State University. They learned teamwork, the power of the collective voice and how to transform the STEM climate by working together. Arizona students got a view into the world beyond our borders.
The Kuwaiti and Sonora students worked hand-in-hand with the Arizona students to develop plans for growing their own CSO student-led programs. Kuwait has set a goal of 150 Chief Science Officers by next year.
As the new board chairman of the Arizona Technology Council Foundation and former Honeywell Aerospace executive, I’m proud to be involved in such an important program that advances STEM education and prepares the next generation of science and technology workers. And I’m proud that Arizona is leading the world in empowering students as science and tech ambassadors. Since its inception, the program has been supported by the Arizona Commerce Authority, Arizona Technology Council and the Governor’s Office.  
Secondary education has always served two purposes. The public debate focuses on its role in teaching students to read, write, do math, think and analyze. But these formative years are also when young adults explore career options and discover their passions, often through extracurricular activities.
With more than 132,000 tech industry jobs in Arizona, this program builds a foundation for sustainable economic growth. The CSO program helps ignite that opportunity. Students who are already inclined toward science and technology are mentored by professionals in the field. They develop online networks with like-minded students. They see what the career possibilities are and how they can be part of changing the world. Exciting stuff.
This is crucial for Arizona’s future. We can’t wait until students are in college to start developing the next generation of tech leaders. This organic catalyst can spark a lifelong passion early in a child’s life.
As Arizona builds our reputation for innovation and entrepreneurship, we must think outside the proverbial box. When we develop and support a program that quickly goes global, as the CSO program has, investors and entrepreneurs take notice.
A state this committed to developing STEM leaders is a place they want to be. 
(Bob Witwer)
Retrieved From: Witwer, Bob., The Business Journals,

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