CSO Blog

Elected advocates for STEM and innovation in schools and communities.
October 3, 2019 //

Girls Living in STEM Award

Author: Jasper Pena

Six words that best describe CSO Ava: Organized, creative, curious, hard-working, honest, determined

“I have known CSO Ava for the past 2 years. As an 8th grade student, she was a Chief Science Officer (CSO) at Jefferson Middle School. She was also a CSO at H.H. Dow High School last year (her 9th grade year) and is beginning her 3rd year as a CSO right now. As the regional lead for the Chief Science Officers program in Michigan, I have worked closely with Ava as she developed and implemented STEM action plans for her school district and currently work with her as part of the Great Lakes Bay Region CSO Leadership Council. For those who may not be familiar with the CSO program, Chief Science Officers (CSO) is an international student leadership program that elevates the student voice by bringing their peers and community leaders together to ignite new opportunities in STEM and innovation. These middle and high school students have been elected by their peers to be STEM voices in their schools and throughout their community. Our local CSO program is sponsored by The Dow Chemical Company.

When I first learned of the Girls Living STEM Award, I immediately thought of Ava Nelson. Her work as a Chief Science Officer is incredibly impressive. For example, in 2018, Ava planned and implemented a community Flight Night at a local airport. A collaboration between local elementary schools, their students and parents, and the Airport Aviation Education Center meant that over 300 students and community members were impacted during this single event. In addition to watching light planes take off and land, students and their parents could climb into a permanent airport display, learn about the atmosphere, discover constellations, and interact with medical evacuation personnel. Aviation is not just a passing interest for Ava, but a true passion; she is interested in studying astrophysics and perhaps working at NASA in the future. Encouraging younger students to learn about aviation in a practical and hands-on setting was Ava’s goal in implementing the Flight Night experience. She continues to lead this program annually and is looking forward to a third Flight Night this September. In order to continue making the greatest impact in her community, Ava makes constant improvements to the event, including incorporating more STEM professionals, a wide variety of hands-on activities, and partnering with different elementary schools. Including this fall’s Flight Night, Ava has impacted well over 1,000 individuals in her community.

In addition to her tremendous success at organizing and implementing such a large event, Ava also gives back to the Chief Science Officers program in our region. She is a member of our CSO Leadership Council and assisted with the coordination of the CSO Leadership Training Institute this summer. At the institute, Ava co-facilitated multiple sessions to encourage her fellow CSOs to develop their own STEM Action Plans at their schools or in their communities. Listening to Ava during these sessions, students were highly engaged and excited to determine what they could do to impact STEM attitudes in their schools this year.

CSOs also attend Cabinet Meetings at local STEM businesses. This gives them the opportunity to interact with STEM professionals, learn more about various STEM careers, and share best practices with other CSOs. Ava has taken an active role in planning our fall Cabinet Meeting at a local nature center where CSOs will learn about environmental education, interact with U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologists, and complete water quality testing activities. The leadership skills that Ava has developed in the past couple of years will continue to serve her (and her fellow CSOs) well in the coming year.

Finally, Ava is a member of the Great Lakes Bay Region STEM Steering Team and participates in regional meetings with the STEM Ecosystem, including business and education partners. Ava’s ability to network and collaborate with stakeholders from a wide variety of sectors is truly impressive for someone of any age, let alone a high school sophomore.

For these reasons, I am truly honored to nominate Ava Nelson for the Girls Living STEM Award.”

-Adrianne Cole

The Girls Living STEM Award recognizes girls and young women who demonstrate:

· Leadership qualities, such as organization, communication and determination.

· Inspires others in their communities through their passion for STEM.

· Commitment to pursuing further development of STEM skills and knowledge through coursework, extra-curricular activities, and career planning in STEM.

· Looks for opportunities to build STEM skills and capabilities in those around them and in their communities.

· Engages in leading and mentoring exchanges to grow interest in STEM around them and in their communities.

· Actively seeking answers and connections using their STEM skills and knowledge to real-world problems impacting their communities, region, state, etc.

Award Criteria

The Girls Living STEM Award is open to anyone:

· Who self-identifies as a girl or young woman; · Who resides and is “Living STEM” in a STEM Learning Ecosystem;

· Who is in grades K-12; and

· Who is nominated by a member of the STEM Learning Ecosystem.

*STEM Learning Ecosystems can submit multiple nominations.

* We will ask for the parent contact information for young women under the age of 13.

Foundation and coordinated through STEM@SVSU (Saginaw Valley State University). This year we have over 70 CSOs in 26 schools in a 3-county region.

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