• Owen Balagia & Reagan Lindsey • IDRA Newsletter • August 2021 •

Editor’s Note: Chief Science Officers are students in grades 6-12 who serve as liaisons for STEM in their schools and communities. They learn leadership skills to implement on-campus projects (or “action plans”) and advocate for student voice in STEM. IDRA manages the Texas expansion of the international program, particularly into historically under-resourced schools and to serve low-income students, students of color and girls. Below and on the next page, CSO students share highlights from their time in the program.

Do you want to know what it’s like being a Chief Science Officer during a global pandemic? It’s kind of challenging.

We are Owen Balagia and Reagan Lindsey, from Brentwood STEAM School of Innovation in Edgewood ISD. We are two of the youngest Level 2 CSOs in Texas and were named the Middle School CSOs of the Year for 2021.

So how did we get to that level of success? A lot of starting, failing and starting again!

We tried to keep up with school and being stuck at home, but we realized that we felt really distanced from our friends and the people who motivate us to keep wanting to achieve more. We are cousins and best friends, so we always had someone. But not everyone did. We chose to make mental health part of our action plan to make sure students were still involved in STEM but also had a healthy state of mind.

Learn More about the Texas Chief Science Officer Program & How to Bring it to Your School

For our action plans, we chose STEM picture books and made videos of ourselves reading them. It was not always easy. We had to do a lot of practice because we were held to a high standard, and there were a lot of distractions. It was also hard keeping a straight face while we filmed (our blooper reels are crazy long).

We sent the videos to other students so they could connect with us in their own homes. We also read about things students could do to practice strong mental health and gave them a few quick strategies.

This year, we learned that COVID-19 made a lot of tragic things happen to the families in our community and across the world. But we also learned that STEM career fields are full of amazing people who are out there saving lives and making the world a safer place, like the people at Knight Aerospace who we got to interview during a virtual tour for CSOs.

As CSOs we might not have saved lives, but we hope we saved the day when another student needed a laugh or just to know that someone was out there thinking of them during this difficult year.

Owen Balagia and Reagan Lindsey are eighth grade students at Brentwood STEAM School of Innovation in Edgewood ISD.

[©2021, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the August 2021 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]