Each year, countless volunteers support CEF with their time and energy to ensure our programs reach as many learners and educators as possible (nearly a million people last year!). Last week, to celebrate National Volunteer Week, we highlighted 13 superstar volunteers on our social media platforms in honor of their dedication to chemistry education.  These people have gone above and beyond to help us move toward our mission and we are so grateful for their commitment to our programs. Their photos and quotations are compiled below.

While we wish we could thank each CEF volunteer in person, we would like to extend our utmost appreciation to all involved in supporting our programs. Without you, YBTC would not be what it is today! Thank you!


Volunteer Spotlight: Yvonne Pfluger, full-time MathScience Innovation Center Science Educator, mom of 4, grandma of 7

“I would encourage anyone who smiles at the word science to volunteer with CEF. Not only do you have top-down support for their programs, you have a community of believers in the power of education. Allowing participants at every part of the education spectrum to have fun “doing science” while simultaneously wondering “what’s going on” gives a scientist a warm sort of feeling. Then, when the explanation is shared and the participants want to do more; well, I just want to do it all over again! The greatest reward of volunteering is seeing the “aha” moments of the students whether it is the students learning new chemical concepts or teachers finally understanding a science concept that eluded them in their formative science years. When participants work so diligently at exploring the concept presented and finally seeing the “light” is a moment to cherish.”



Volunteer Spotlight: Kim Keith, chemical industry member

“In 2006, Brenntag North America wanted to start the YBTC Challenge in PA. We began with one school district and only 6 participants. The very first year our PA Challenge winner won the National Challenge! We’ve continued supporting the Challenge and have seen major growth in participation. PA now has 7 local challenges (Brenntag North America sponsors 4 of them) and over 500 students participating. I am so impressed with the Chemistry knowledge of these young individuals. The greatest reward of organizing the event is seeing the same students participate over and over and eventually going to the state or national level.”





Volunteer Spotlight: Dr. Georgina Little, university chemistry professor

“At the beginning of this semester, I noticed a familiar name on my chemistry lab roster, but I couldn’t remember why the name was familiar. On the first day of class, her face looked familiar, too. She was not a past student of mine and we could not figure out a common link until a few weeks went by and I asked for volunteers to help with our Local You Be The Chemist Challenge. At that point, she told me that she had placed in our challenge several years ago and had gone on to the state level. Even better, she volunteered this year and was able to give back to the younger generation. How exciting to see that she stayed excited about science and is now a biology major!”





Volunteer Spotlight: Dr. Quan Yuan, educational counselor, new mom, non-traditional pre-med student

“I got to know CEF from the email list of the Chemistry department at the University of Colorado at Boulder. At that time I just got my PhD in Biochemistry and finished my ten semesters of teaching General Chemistry. I was making study materials and questions about high school chemistry for a mobile app at an educational startup. I thought my educational background and work experience were exactly what CEF looked for. So I applied to volunteer. Volunteering with CEF is a very positive and pleasant experience. First of all, it is a great opportunity to utilize your expertise to make a real difference. Lots of middle school kids will work on the materials and questions you participate in reviewing or creating. Your effort very likely stimulates their interests in chemistry. Second, CEF staff members are very kind and professional. You will feel greatly appreciated whenever you make any contributions. Third, volunteering with CEF is a terrific learning opportunity. I had many good discussions with other volunteers and gained a deeper understanding of several chemistry concepts.”



Volunteer Spotlight: Stephanie Carouthers, BASF Chemist

“The greatest reward of volunteering is being able to help others by broadening their minds to new possibilities. I would not be where I am today without people who volunteered to expose me to things they were passionate about. Volunteering creates an impact whether you see the fruits of your labor immediately or not. The best thing about organizing Local and State YBTC Challenges is experiencing the impact on students and their families. Parents tell me how their older child helped the younger one study for the Challenge, when a young girl who hated science enjoyed participating so much that she wants to pursue a career in science, and simply the hugs between a parent and student for a job well done even if the student didn’t reach the next round. I am so happy to do my part to ensure your mission – our mission – is a success.”




Volunteer Spotlight: Dr. Elvin Aleman, Associate Professor of Chemistry at California State University Stanislaus, father

“Volunteering for CEF is great! I was invited by a friend that also volunteers and was able to meet the staff during the Content Development Conference in October and learn more about CEF programs. I have helped by writing and reviewing questions for the You Be The Chemist Challenge. I love seeing the pictures of students participating in the Challenge and teachers at the Essential Elements workshops.”





Volunteer Spotlight: Lauren Amable, cancer researcher using biology and chemistry to study metal deregulation

“I love sharing my passion and love for science with others. It was because I had a teacher who was so passionate about science that got me motivated. She was the teacher who dressed up as Einstein and spoke with an accent to explain his theories and science, FOR THE ENTIRE CLASS. I loved it, then realized science can be fun and got me motivated. Additionally, I love the fact that I might be a role model for others to show that scientists are fun!”






Volunteer Spotlight: Ginger Sanchez, Quality Lab Manager for BASF, mom of 5 boys

“I will never forget the first State Challenge winner my first year as an organizer. He was a very shy young man that was so kind with such a great personality. He introduced me to his single dad who had taken off work to come watch him in the competition. I watched his face during the competition and he had such emotions when the answers were revealed. I watched he and his dad smile and frown off and on all day. During the break before the last round of questions, I watched him get so upset over a wrong answer while speaking to his Dad. You could tell how much this competition meant to him. When the last question was read and he was announced the winner, he broke down in tears along with his Dad. I have never seen anyone so happy. I broke down in tears as well along with several of my team members. At the end of the day, he and his father thanked me 3 times for hosting this event. He let me know how much this meant to him, it was the first thing he had ever won something. At the next year’s event, I asked him to return to speak about his experience at the National Challenge. He again thank me for the opportunity saying that winning the state level and going to the National Challenge had been the best thing that ever happened to him. That is what makes CEF and BASF the best partners to allow me to be involved with this program. I encourage others to become volunteers, it is the best feeling in the world!”


Volunteer Spotlight: Angela Carraway, Chemistry Instructor at Meridian Community College, wife, mom to 2

“For many reasons, increasing students’ interest in science is a something that needs to happen, but many schools and parents lack the time and/or resources to encourage students outside the classroom. Many of them can benefit from science enhancement activities provided through some other avenue. Volunteering with CEF is, for me, an easy way to help encourage students to pursue their interests in science. There are similar circumstances in other areas. Find a way to utilize your skills and passions to benefit others.”





Volunteer Spotlight: Tina Boville, PhD, postdoctoral researcher at the California Institute of Technology working on directed evolution

“Whether you organize a Challenge or help design the materials, your time creates a new generation of scientists. Having young minds enthused about solving challenges of the future can only make the world a better place.”







Volunteer Spotlight: Dawn Hamilton, Essential Elements Certified Instructor, lab technician atBASF, Mayor of the town of Malcolm, mom

“The greatest reward that I have volunteering with CEF is seeing the excitement of the kids! They love doing the activities and having fun learning about chemistry. When it is fun, they will learn more and continue to keep themselves interested in science. CEF has given me opportunities that I would never have had access to. The You Be The Chemist programs have shown me that kids are eager to learn and if you give them the right tools they will forever use them.”





Volunteer Spotlight: Barbara Ferri, middle school science teacher, environmental club and science club adviser, drama department director

“There are so many programs that address students that struggle with academics. Working with CEF has allowed me to provide enrichment for our gifted and talented students. It is rewarding to see them blossom and get excited about science at a level that makes sense to them. My favorite moments are when I run the local challenge at our school to determine who goes to the state competition. I am always tickled by the reaction of the 6th graders. It is their first year participating. At the end of each slide when the correct answer is revealed, they cheer and high five when they get the right answer.”




Volunteer Spotlight: Ted Lelek, retired chemical industry marketing executive

“Seeing the kids compete in the State Challenge gives me great hope that our work is helping instill a curiosity for chemistry in young students!”







Interested in getting involved? We’d love to work with you. Learn more here!