Gandhi said that we should be the change that we want to see in the world. That ideology resonates with Amaya Ayon-Zarate, a 6th grader from San Jose, CA, who created a prosthetic for animals after seeing a video about a disabled dog.
Amaya participated in a 3D Printing Apprenticeship led by our Citizen Teachers from SanDisk. She received an award for having the top design: a 3D-printed wheelchair for animals. Amaya says she felt compelled to design and produce the low-cost wheelchair to mobilize disabled animals after viewing a YouTube video of a Chihuahua with no back legs. Hers was one of several Citizen School, and US2020, students’ submissions to the 6th Annual White House Science Fair—the largest to date, with more than 130 participants from 30 states.
Hosted by President Obama, the science fair took place on April 13th at the White House and was an inspiring event that showcased the ingenuity of America’s youth in a broad range of areas including: science, technology, engineering and math. The president highlighted the growing community of education, business and nonprofit leaders that responded to his State of the Union call to give every child the opportunity to learn computer science and to enable them to become innovators and problems-solvers.
President Obama used the occasion to announce a number of new initiatives including US2020’s launch of an online matching platform connecting STEM professionals to volunteer opportunities. The new platform will enable nonprofit organizations, and classroom teachers, to connect with STEM professionals. US2020 plans to use the platform as a central hub to engage more than 1,000 corporations and civic organizations with the goal to serve more than 20,000 students.
I left the White House that day with a sense of wonder and excitement about all the inventions I’d seen, the people I’d met, the president’s plans for the future of STEM education, and the tremendous energy in the room. Sadly, Amaya was not able to make the trip from California to Washington, D.C. that day, but I know she was so inspired by her own experience with science and that she plans to become a prosthetics engineer, specializing in animal cases, when she grows up.
Earlier in the month of April, we held our 4th Annual Texas Luncheon in Houston. That state’s First Lady Cecilia Abbott served as keynote speaker – like me, Mrs. Abbott is the child of educators and has devoted her life to transforming lives through education. It’s worth noting that Mrs. Abbott was so impressed with the work we are doing in Texas that she invited our Houston E.D., Greg Meyers, to the Governor’s Mansion to join her at the announcement of a new initiative called “Texanthropy” – a campaign to promote volunteerism and service in her state.
At the luncheon we honored our corporate partner, the Hess Corporation, for their support in closing the opportunity gap for middle school kids – we are so appreciative of their efforts! But the best part of the day for me was getting to meet, and talk with, a group of kids from the Patrick Henry Middle School. One young lady, Briana Pineda, really made an impression on me because of her infectious enthusiasm about her participation in our program.
At Citizen Schools we try to make every day exciting for the kids in our programs. In Cambridge, MA, our partnership with Google is empowering students from the Boston area with STEM activities that leverage their imagination. Students build windmills, race cars, and learn about energy – both doing experiments they’ve designed and those created by their Citizen Teachers.
We’ve found the students involved have a really good time, as do the adult working with them. Google software engineer, and Citizen Teacher, David Staff told us he loves to inspire the students he works with to learn by creating activities that are fun and educational. David it was an enjoyable experience for him as well and that he’s grateful to Google for making it easy for their employees to get involved.
I know how he feels, my position as the CEO of Citizen Schools gives me the opportunity to do incredible things, and to meet a lot of wonderful people too – here are a few images that capture some of the remarkable moments we’ve had recently…