December 13, 2023

Every year, the AEOP Membership Council celebrates the achievements of some of the inspirational teachers, students and mentors who have participated in AEOP programs. This recognition spotlights their unwavering commitment to elevating STEM education through a range of awards: the Community Service Award, the Educator of the Year Award, the Renaissance Award, the AEOP Mentor of the Year Award, the 2023 Future Leader Award, the All-Star Award and the Rising Star Award. 

Join us in celebrating this year’s award winners! 

Teja Mareddy – Community Service Award
Camp Invention

AEOP has been key in shaping Teja’s journey in STEM, providing both personal and professional opportunities to contribute to others’ education. Through AEOP, he has been able to become more active in STEM. 

This award marks a significant milestone for Teja, as it inspired him to expand his nonprofit initiative focused on enhancing STEM awareness among youth and help fill the knowledge gap. Looking ahead, he would like to continue his research in cybersecurity and genetics through the Waksman Student Scholars Program at Rutgers University, one day work at Microsoft and even launch his own business in the technology sector. 

His advice for STEM enthusiasts is to persevere through the initial struggles; it can be challenging and overwhelming at first navigating such an expansive field. Remember: practice makes permanent, not perfect! 

Dawn L. Martin – Educator of the Year Award

Winning the Educator of the Year Award from AEOP has reignited Dawn’s dedication to education and desire to be a life-long learner. AEOP has shown her that the possibilities within the realm of STEM are boundless, offering exciting adventures in the journey of life. The encouragement from AEOP has inspired her to create opportunities for students to delve into STEM, a path she hopes to continue amplifying by creating awareness of diverse STEM pathways. Looking ahead, she hopes to be a recipient of the Community Service Award, after launching a series of community events. 

To those beginning their STEM journey, Dawn’s advice is to try it all; you will not know which field or subject is your niche until you give them a try. It may be hard, but it is not impossible. And, throughout your journey, you’ll meet people along the way that will help, encourage and offer opportunities to soar in STEM. 

In the future, she plans to share the wealth of STEM opportunities with students, pursue a doctorate in statistics and continue her role as a Teacher for GEMS. Additionally, Dawn hopes to obtain her National Board Teacher Certification and continue her volunteer work. 

Ethan Phoenix Zhou – Renaissance Award
High School Apprenticeships

​​Ethan’s journey into STEM started after participating in AEOP’s GEMS program in 2020. This experience motivated him to actively pursue STEM learning opportunities and participate in contests like the American Computer Science League, High School Mathematical Contest in Modeling and various science fairs. In the summer of 2023, he conducted impactful research on organic photovoltaics at the University of Massachusetts Lowell as part of the AEOP High School Apprenticeship Program, contributing to sustainable energy advancements under the guidance of Professor Ramaswamy Nagarajan. 

In addition to being an AEOP participant, Ethan is also part of the AEOP Membership Council, specifically the Content Creator Committee. 

Ethan’s AEOP experience has taught him to stay curious and embrace trial and error, especially in research projects where each challenge is a learning opportunity and not a setback. For those interested in STEM, he recommends being proactive in seeking new learning opportunities. Embrace the unknown, and don’t be afraid of asking for help. AEOP will always be there to support you. 

In the future, Ethan aspires to become a tech innovator to creatively solve high-impact problems using science and technology.

Sarah Cooper – Mentor of the Year Award

Winning an AEOP award marks a significant milestone in Sarah’s STEM journey, one that’s lit a fire in her passion for mentorship. Beyond personal recognition, this award serves as a platform to champion less-appreciated heroes — mentors. Whether scientists or seasoned educators, their guidance is the secret ingredient to igniting a love for research in young minds. With this award shining a spotlight on the importance of mentorship, Sarah is committed to normalizing student research, especially in Southeast Career Technical Academy (SECTA) research and all STEM fields. For her, this isn’t just about advocating; it’s about amplifying the voices of students’ bright minds and ensuring they have access to life-changing opportunities. 

Looking ahead, Sarah is eager to continue advocating for student research integration in curriculum. She also plans to expand her school’s research program by seeking out grants and creating more mentorship opportunities. For her, this award isn’t just a trophy; it’s a reminder of the potential in every student and the impact of a supportive environment. It motivates Sarah to push for a world where mentorship and student research aren’t just encouraged, but celebrated and given the resources to thrive.

For those embarking on their STEM journey, Sarah advises finding a mentor, embracing curiosity, exploring possibilities, connecting with fellow enthusiasts and believing in yourself. Even when faced with challenges, your determination and passion will carry you through. Every step you take in the world of STEM contributes to your growth. Stay focused, keep the flame of curiosity alive and rest assured, you’re on your way to accomplishing remarkable things.

Lily Neff – 2023 Future Leader Award
College Qualified Leaders

Lily credits AEOP for shaping her STEM journey and solidifying her interest in pursuing a government career in STEM. Winning this award not only helps boost her CV, but will support both her funding efforts for research projects and her aspirations to become a principal investigator following her postdoctoral fellowship. Lily’s goal is to secure funding for research projects, publish manuscripts to raise her profile in the science community and mentor the next generation of scientists.

Reflecting on her AEOP College Qualified Leaders (CQL) experience, Lily highlights the invaluable exposure to new techniques in Dr. Hammamieh’s lab at USACEHR. This opportunity proved crucial during her undergraduate years at a small liberal arts college, where such techniques were not available. However, she was able to gain this experience through AEOP.

Looking ahead, Lily aspires to become a principal investigator and eventually a program director in the government. Her advice to those interested in STEM: when one door closes, another one opens. Be open to the opportunities and possibilities even if it wasn’t your first choice. Perseverance, she emphasizes, is the key—don’t give up.

Iishaan Inabathini – All-Star Award

Iishaan credits AEOP’s eCYBERMISSION for shaping his interests and path in STEM. As an AEOP Membership Council member, he believes that, with extended outreach, AEOP can help many students find their interests and reach their highest goals. As a member of the AEOP Membership Council for nearly two years now, he has worked on increasing outreach and is currently the chair of the leadership subteam.

Iishaan encourages aspiring STEM enthusiasts to pursue their passions, emphasizing the value of seeking guidance from teachers and experts. He encourages others to always ask themselves how what they are learning can be used to help their community and people around the world.

Looking ahead, Iishaan aspires to develop cutting-edge methods or set new industry standards to tackle challenging problems. He expresses a desire to participate in competitions and research internships to further his STEM knowledge. 

Arnia Goode – Rising Star Award

Arnia attributes her increased confidence and growing passion for addressing community issues through STEM to the pivotal role played by AEOP. The organization has not only provided her with opportunities to explore potential STEM careers but has also fueled her aspiration to become an engineer.

Throughout the past year, Arnia has served as a member of the AEOP Membership Council, enjoying the opportunity to contribute to the STEM journey of current AEOP students. In June 2023, she volunteered at the eCYBERMISSION NJ&EE, where she shared her AEOP experiences and gained insights into the STEM path of both current and former AEOP students.

Motivated by her AEOP experiences, Arnia is interested in furthering her STEM knowledge. Looking forward, Arnia plans to attend college to study mechanical engineering. She hopes to become an engineer in the U.S. military and develop groundbreaking technology. Her advice to aspiring STEM enthusiasts: seize every opportunity, learn from those with more experience and engage in hands-on activities whenever possible. 

To learn more about the AEOP Alumni Council, visit this website.

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    The eCYBERMISSION Mini-Grant is intended to support teachers/program leaders as they implement eCYBERMISSION with their teams. Educators (formal and informal) of students in grades 6-9 are encouraged to apply. Special consideration is given to Title 1 schools and to those with underserved/ under-represented populations.