Marissa Nolte has seen a lot in her 15 years: Illness and major surgeries, academic victories and leadership positions.

Now the Goodyear teen is seeing the world.

The student at Arizona Agri-Business and Equine Center at Estrella Mountain Community College is in Kuwait for a week as part of the Chief Science Officers program.

“This is a great opportunity to benefit us and the Kuwaitis as human beings,” Nolte said. “It’s amazing for both of us culturally and especially for the CSO program, so I can spread the word about the program. It’s so cool.”

Founded in Arizona, the worldwide Chief Science Officers program is the first in which a sixth- to 12th-grade student is elected to be his or her school community’s liaison for STEM and innovation. The students experience leadership training, impact STEM opportunities at their school and local community, and work as a collective cabinet to give input and ideas to adult STEM leaders in the state or region.

The CSO program aims to elevate the popularity of STEM and empowers students to bring opportunities to campus and ensure they are respected voices for STEM within their communities.

After attending Leadership Institute, they serve as a voice for their school, support existing STEM programs and identify new opportunities. Off campus, CSOs advocate at city council and school board meetings, conferences and local businesses.

Nolte is the first Arizona student to travel abroad. Her peers from Kuwait and Mexico have visited here.

“With this program expanding internationally, this is a great opportunity to bounce ideas off each other,” Nolte said.

She will be in Kuwait for a week, including her 15th birthday on Friday, November 30. She admitted to being nervous about the trip.

“My parents aren’t going, which is a little nerve wracking,” she said. “It’s my second time overseas. As a child, I was adopted from China and brought to America.”

Nolte was born with a hole in her heart. She said she believes her parents in China were unable to pursue treatment for her. When she arrived in the United States, she had surgery for her heart problem. At age 7, her brother headbutted her and during a subsequent medical exam, emergency room doctors found a 60 mm cyst in her abdomen. A three-hour surgery bled into nine hours and the removal of her gall bladder. Her intestine was rerouted and she came down with pancreatitis.

“I was 7 years old,” she said. “I didn’t understand what was happening. I was lucky that, while I had pancreatitis, I wasn’t experiencing half the pain most people have.

“For the cyst, the doctors said they were glad the injury happened because if they didn’t find it sooner, it could have ruptured at any time and immediately killed me.”

Nolte is dual enrolled in high school and Estrella Mountain Community College, with the hopes of going into the medical or educational field. Kuwaiti Chief Science Officers came to the United States and the groups connected before Nolte’s trip.

Her mother, Jules Nolte, called her daughter her “miracle baby.” She and her husband, Rick, have four adopted children, all of whom had medical issues and in whom they instilled a sense of worth and charity. They stressed the importance of forging ahead despite their medical conditions.

“Marissa really took that to heart,” Jules said.

Nolte is in Kuwait with CSO Director of Student Success Kelly Greene.

“I met her and was impressed with her as an eighth grader,” Greene said about Nolte. “She was very pleasant and poised. Now, she’s the delegate who’s going to attend the Kuwait cabinet meeting. This is especially important for an Arizona CSO to go because the program was started in Arizona. She’s the first international student to travel from here. The Kuwaiti students came here; the Mexican delegates, too. But she’s our first international student.”

Nolte is grateful to have her parents’ permission to go.

“It’s hard for me to realize how much they’ve gone through with my medical history and my going overseas without them,” Marissa added. “I love them so much and I’m so grateful to them for allowing me to do this and to give me this opportunity. They support me so much and I love them so much.”


Retrieved From: Fuoco-Karasinski, C. (2018, December 07). Goodyear teen in Kuwait sharing STEM message. Retrieved from

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