The school year has begun and across the nation schools are trying their best to keep the fires of education burning. Some schools are allowing children to learn face to face, others are trying their hand at remote learning, and some schools are attempting a mix of the two. Sadly this will mean that American children will be falling behind in education. No matter what combo of solutions we try to pull off, the most likely result is that test scores will slip and kids will not receive the same level of education they did before Covid-19. It should come as no surprise that our nation’s underserved children will suffer the most. An article published on the McKinsey & Company website stated that “The average black or Hispanic student remains roughly two years behind the average white one, and low-income students continue to be underrepresented among top performers.” Now with our current situation it seems there is a potential for that to get worse.

There are some organizations that are not taking this news laying down. The Society for Science & the Public is awarding nearly $350,000 to help students of different races and ethnicities in STEM and students from low-income households and underserved groups. They call it the Advocate Program and over the past 6 years, it has been working to inspire the next generation of our nation’s scientists and engineers to do original STEM research and enter their work into science competitions.

How it Works

Every year teachers, counselors, and mentors apply to be part of the Advocate Program. Through a rigorous application process, some are chosen to be Advocates, and Lead Advocates. This year 66 STEM educators have been chosen to guide three or more students as they enter research projects into competitions. These Advocates teach in middle schools, high schools, universities, museums, and nonprofits across the country. Typically, each Advocate would receive $5,000 to aid them in this effort. This year, however, the Society is offering an additional $132,000, $2,000 per educator, to help students stay connected and have the research materials they need to effectively and safely pursue science research projects during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“At this unprecedented time, it is essential we adapt swiftly and give students planned and effective pathways to access STEM mentors and research opportunities, despite an inability for many schools to remain open in person,” said Maya Ajmera, President and CEO of the Society for Science & the Public and Publisher of Science News. “While research labs and facilities maybe closed, the Society’s Advocate Program will help ensure that students who are traditionally underserved in STEM have mentors year-round who will work with them and push them to stay on top of their STEM education, conduct research at home and have the opportunity to enter science research competitions.”

Just last week, the Advocates attended virtual training where they learned about strategies for guiding their students through the process of entering science and engineering competitions and supporting students during the current public health crisis. They will also receive continued support from the Society throughout the rest of the one-year term. You can learn more about the program by visiting their website.

What is the additional money this year being used for?

After the Advocates receive the funds, there are a few things they can choose to spend it on to help their students:

Research Kits – There are many kits to choose from depending on the field of science a student’s project focuses on, such as chemistry kits, Neuron Spikerbox Bundles, water sampling and weather experiment kits and more. These kits can be used at home or in the classroom.

Safety Equipment – For classrooms that are going to remain open, these supplies will help keep students and teachers safe during the pandemic.

Tech Kits for Educators – All of the Advocates will be attending virtual training classes and with their student cohorts year-round. These kits will help ensure that they have the means to do so.

Internet Access – Advocates may choose to purchase hot spots to ensure their students have internet access, inside and outside the classroom. 


How effective is the program?

This is the program’s sixth year, and to date they have helped a couple of thousand students enter thousands of competitions. Moreover, since the program’s 2015 launch, students of Advocates are responsible for over 4,000 unique competition entries, with many students entering more than one competition each year. Ninety percent of those students are from low- income households and 70 percent are of a race or ethnicity underrepresented in STEM.

This year the Advocate Program is standing out as one way in which the country can try and make up for the lack of education during Covid-19.

Here is a list of this years Advocates:

2020-2021 Lead Advocates:

  1. McKenzie Baecker, Two Rivers Public Charter School (Washington, DC)
  2. Scotti Benton, Jasper County Middle School (Monticello, GA)
  3. Loree Harvey, Monte Vista High School (Monte Vista, CO)
  4. Vincent Joralemon, Frank McCourt High School (New York, NY)
  5. Deborah Morgan, South Sevier High School (Burrville, UT)
  6. Lorraine O’Shea, Grand Forks Public Schools (Grand Forks, ND)
  7. Heather Overkamp, I.C. Norcom High School (Portsmouth, VA)
  8. Carolyn Walling, Iowa City West High School (Iowa City, IA)
  9. Samuel Loftus, Livingston Collegiate Academy (New Orleans, LA) *

2020-2021 Advocates:

  1. Jilian Aesir, El Sausal Middle School (Salinas, CA)
  2. Sharon Ball, Patterson High School (Baltimore, MD)
  3. Kristina Bellamy , Johnny Oldman School (Hughes, AK)
  4. Ramon Benavidez, Del Valle High School (El Paso, TX)
  5. Dallas Bergstrom, Miller Career & Technology Center (Katy, TX)
  6. Elizabeth Bieri, Holy Family Cristo Rey Catholic High School (Birmingham, AL)
  7. Leo Clark, Newburg R-II School District (Newburg, MO)
  8. Philip Clarke, Centennial High School (Gresham, OR)
  9. Cameron Cooley, Memphis Academy of Science & Engineering (Memphis, TN)
  10. Sarah Cooper, Southeast Career Technical Academy (Las Vegas, NV)
  11. Alan Daugherty, Melrose High School (Melrose, NM)
  12. Robin Driver, Eisenhower High School (Yakima, WA)
  13. Lauren Dudley, Chapman University (Orange, CA)
  14. Tyson Edwards, Venture High School (Marriott-Slaterville, UT)
  15. Kathleen Galau, Thunder Mountain High School (Juneau, AK)
  16. Samuel Garson, Friday Harbor High School (Friday Harbor, WA)
  17. Patricia Garvey, Gar-Field High School (Woodbridge, VA)
  18. Albert Harrold, Strength and Honor Mentoring and Tutoring (Florissant, MO)
  19. Meghan Hess Shamdasani, SouthTech Academy (Boynton Beach, FL)
  20. Katye Howell, William B. Travis High School (Austin, TX)
  21. Patricia Huntington, Jean Farb Middle School (San Diego, CA)
  22. Anthony Husemann, Nome Beltz High School (Nome, AK)
  23. Reshawndra Hutchins-Trapp, Clayton County Schools (Jonesboro, GA)
  24. Jeremy Jonas, Tucson High Magnet School (Tucson, AZ)
  25. Stephanie Jones, Maynard H. Jackson-Jr. High School (Atlanta, GA)
  26. Shelly Kennedy, Dekalb Middle School (Waterloo, IN)
  27. Rick Lapworth, Felix Varela High School (Miami, FL)
  28. Andrea LaRosa Westside Middle School Academy (Danbury, CT)
  29. Phebe Martinez Fuentes, Hanna Early College High School (Brownsville, TX)
  30. Margarette Marturano, Seminole Ridge High School (Westlake, FL)
  31. Erin Mayer, Casey Middle School (Boulder, CO)
  32. Allyson McFalls, Blowing Rock Elementary School (Blowing Rock, NC)
  33. Keri Meador, Central High School (Louisville, KY)
  34. Amy Melby, Yuma High School (Yuma, CO)
  35. Pradip Misra, Bagdad High School (Bagdad, AZ)
  36. Lori Moore, Willits High School (Willits, CA)
  37. Susana Oliu, John Muir High School (Pasadena, CA)
  38. Rosalyn Parson, Friendship Collegiate Academy (Washington, DC)
  39. Brenda Perez-Goodrum, New Liberty Innovation High School (Salem, MA)
  40. Eileen Rachelle Poserio, Frazer High School (Frazer, MT)
  41. Robert Powell, Challenger Learning Center (Ferguson, MO)
  42. Cecilie Prine, Lander Middle School (Lander, WY)
  43. Nate Raynor, Mescalero Apache School (Mescalero, NM)
  44. Jeanne Richardson, Graham Junior High School (Jacksboro, TX)
  45. Keyla Soto Hidalgo, University High School (San Juan, PR)
  46. Roger Spears, Goshen County School District No. 1 (Lingle, WY)
  47. Kendra Swain, Alabama State University (Montgomery, AL)
  48. Sharon Taylor, Glenn Levey Middle School (Southfield, MI)
  49. Paul Timm, Lyons-Decatur Northeast Public Schools (Lyons, NE)
  50. Yajaira Torres-De Jesus, Colegio Rosa Bell (Guaynabo, PR)
  51. Joshua Truitt, Hilsman Middle School (Athens, GA)
  52. Jennifer Underwood, Iowa High School (Iowa, LA)
  53. Ashland “Coby” Willis, Tucker Elementary School (Philadelphia, MS)
  54. Robin Wilson, Emmett High School (Emmett, ID)
  55. Dina Yarmus, EnvironMentors NCSE – Widener University Chapter (Chester, PA)
  56. Sara Yeh, Ray Wiltsey Middle School (Ontario, CA)
  57. Donna Youngblood, Gilmer High School (Gilmer, TX)

About Society for Science & the Public

Society for Science & the Public is dedicated to the achievement of young scientists in independent research and to public engagement in science. Established in 1921, the Society is a nonprofit whose vision is to promote the understanding and appreciation of science and the vital role it plays in human advancement. Through its world-class competitions, including the Regeneron Science Talent Search, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, and the Broadcom MASTERS, and its award-winning magazine, Science News and Science News for Students, Society for Science & the Public is committed to inform, educate, and inspire. Learn more at and follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Snapchat (Society4Science).