A Presidential Honor, Scientifically Speaking

Kennedy High School student invited to D.C. for student science advisory panel


Milota speaking in front of the student science advisory panel

Most of us will never get the chance to meet our city mayor. Imagine the surprise on Kennedy High School senior Jamie Milota’s face when she got a call saying that she was invited to meet the president.

“I was invited to go to the White House to meet with Obama’s science advisers and other student science advisers about making solutions to problems we face today,” Milota said.

Milota was invited to DC through Iowa BIG, an initiative-based program that focuses on using student passions to drive innovation. Milota has been working on developing new physics curriculum at Iowa BIG, which she hopes will help increase student interest in Physics, as well as make science more accessible to students.

“For curriculum purposes, I believe by doing the lab portion first and then followed by a lecture gives students a more natural way of learning and thinking. By doing labs before lectures, it shifts the focus off of memorizing equations that may never become intuitive to the student towards the concepts of physics in which the student gets to gain the real life experience physics has on them,” Milota said.

Milota was inspired to create this new physics curriculum in reaction to the experiences she had in her high school science classrooms. Her passion for physics has been noticed within the community prior to her trip to DC.

“Last week I went to speak at a panel with three other high school students at an event called Open Minds Open Doors in which allows girls to explore their options in STEM. The perfect blend between my history of teaching and inspiring younger students and how passionate I am in STEM and STEM education helped me get to where I am today,” Milota said.

Yet, her history with presenting her ideas through Iowa BIG couldn’t keep the nerves from creeping in on Oct. 21, the big day of her DC Presentation.

“Once we started walking from our hotel to the White House is where it all hit me. I quickly became nervous and was mildly freaking out on the outside while wildly freaking out on the inside,” Milota said.

After presenting to the science panel, Milota was faced with another surprise.

“I didn’t know we were actually going to meet the president. The staff wanted to surprise us so they didn’t mention the students were going to meet the president. President Obama walked into the room and all I could do was smile,” Milota said.

“He invited us into the iconic oval office where we had our picture taken with him and gave us presidential M&M’s and a challenge coin, something not many people receive,” Milota, after interacting with Obama, said.

“The entire experience itself is something I can’t put into words… It was such a great honor to have the opportunity to go to DC and speak on behalf of science students everywhere,” Milota said.