Bayard & Holmes Youth Achievement Cyber-Hug 2013

By Jay Holmes

In order to give my tired brain a break from the often painful world of foreign policy, I did some recreational reading today. The vacation from our world’s wars and genocides did me good. I found some great information about a couple of young people who deserve recognition and national cyber-hugs.

Unlike real-time hugs, cyber-hugs avoid the danger of exposing these fine youngsters to that odd sadistic creep relative who finds every chance to squeeze the breath out of children. The awardees will be thrilled to know that neither this dangerous old crank nor anyone else will actually be showing up at their house expecting to touch them.

The truth is that I haven’t yet discussed the particulars of how we would handle such an award with my writing partner, Piper Bayard. But have no fear. Piper is busy tonight doing more of that “work” stuff that our “working relationship” requires.

Piper is a bright and judicious attorney. She managed to get through law school without asking me to help any of her fellow students or her professors stumble upon any unfortunate accidents, so I know she is good at thinking like a lawyer. Furthermore, she had the good sense to enlist the aid of our world class publishing attorney and historical mystery author, Ms. Susan Spann. Susan knows her stuff. Between Susan and Piper, I am confident that details of this award will be well managed.

Sara Volz, image from Facebook

Sara Volz, image from Facebook

This year, we have a two-way tie for our first Bayard and Holmes Youth Achievement Award. The first amazing young person is a 17-year-old scientist by the name of Sara Volz from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Sarah converted a space in her bedroom into a science lab. She is using that lab to research algae as biofuel.

Thus far, algae have proven to be stingy in the amount of oil they give us in exchange for the polluted waters that we so generously share with them. Sara uses artificial selection to find algae with a better work ethic that produce more oil. The implications of this 17-year-old’s work seem very significant. Intel also thinks it’s significant. Her research won the Intel Science Talent Search and was awarded $100,000, which she indicated she will use for her education.

Note to oil executives. Leave her alone. My bad guys are better than your bad guys, and I know where you and your surplus significant others all live. Do not disturb this child.

Note to DOE. We give you folks vast sums of cash, and you burn it faster than a gaggle of drunken Secret Service agents in a Colombian house of ill repute. Pay attention. Ill-conceived DOE Director Bill Richardson is long gone, and you people should be producing more science again. If you were operating at this girl’s level of efficiency, I would already have a safe-to-use, pocket-sized fusion generator fueled by toxic waste and surplus body fat. If you haven’t hired this young lady yet, you need to come to your senses and do so ASAP.

Jonah Kallenbach, image from

Jonah Kallenbach, image from

Our other awardee is a 17-year-old named Jonah Kallenbach of Ambler, Pennsylvania. Jonah won second place in the Intel Science Talent Search for his groundbreaking work with proteins along with $75,000. Unfortunately, I don’t understand Jonah’s work well enough to explain it you. Fortunately, Jonah does understand it. The upshot is that he is discovering how to get proteins to react better with medications. The long term implications for the health of cranky old guys like me are very significant.

Wow, if fifteen of our world’s adults were getting half as much done as these two fine young people, imagine the results.

We congratulate both of you fine young scientists for getting so much done with so little funding. Thank you, Sara and Jonah, for your remarkable work. Because of you two, I’ll still be healthy enough to drive my wife and myself to a shuffleboard competition when I get a little older, and I will still have the fuel to get there.

I cringe when I hear my fellow old cranks complaining about “kids today.” It’s nonsense. There are a lot of great young people doing great things. Instead of looking down our wrinkled noses at today’s youth, we would better serve our own interests by helping youngsters find the opportunities to develop their talents. In a world with so much tragedy and human suffering, young people like Sara and Jonah give us all cause for hope.


15 comments on “Bayard & Holmes Youth Achievement Cyber-Hug 2013

  1. Julie Glover says:

    I was struck by the importance of these teens’ projects, as well as how confidently and seamlessly they spoke on their subject. I am indeed encouraged!

    I think a big part of our current challenge in America is figuring out what barriers are keeping people from their potential and how to unleash that so that we can forge ahead, make and do great things! These young people are a great start. Thanks, Jay.

    • Jay Holmes says:

      Hi Julie. Your point about unleashing the potential that our youth have is in my opinion quite right and very significant.

  2. Thanks for spotting and highlighting these winners.
    Hope someone sits up and notices and provides resources to our best and brightest who are out there doing it despite everything.
    Note to school districts: Smart kids deserve funding, too. Seriously – restore funding to the top groups! Be fair

  3. Jay Holmes says:

    Hi Philosopher. Teachers from multiple districts tell me that much of the funding goes to special ed. I support special ed. Sadly, in many districts the brighter kids get little or no help.

    Much of the funding also goes to pie in the sky initiatives. Every couple of years, teachers are being presented with some new initiative that will supposedly revolutionize education. Usually, those initiatives just revolutionize the finances of one snake oil education marketing scam or another. Neither the teachers nor the students benefit.

    The most hideous example that I can think of during my children’s brief adventures in public education is the old “Character Counts” scam. District administrators and legislators with decent character would not have wasted money on such an expensive scam.

    I am thrilled that, in spite of our education systems, there are still great youngsters coming to the forefront. It gives me hope for the future.

  4. Susan Spann says:

    Great post – and fantastic idea, Holmes! I love the idea of celebrating what young people are doing well instead of just bemoaning the state of THEM KIDS TODAY.

    The fact that you’re offering only VIRTUAL hugs is good too. Because it means you and Piper are only virtually creepy. Or something like that….maybe….

    Seriously, thanks for the shout-out and thanks for giving me something positive to look at today. With all the negatives running around the Internet, it’s delightful to see people doing something they’re happy and passionate about.

  5. Dave says:

    That IS a good kid. If she’s here in Colorado, I would have expected her to be optimizing the THC content of pot or an improved distribution system for expensive coffee.

  6. I LOVE this post! We need to hear more of these stories and they should be the front page headlines … not more blathering about the Second Amendment! Thanks!

  7. […] Bayard and Holmes remind us just how amazing and bright young people are with their youth achievement awards. […]

  8. Jay Holmes says:

    Thank you, KM.

  9. These young scientists are brilliant. I have read through the list of projects submitted by semifinalists in the Intel Science and Talent Search, and in many cases it takes a superior intellect simply to comprehend their hypotheses. I have also judged at some of the qualifying science fairs, and it is indeed encouraging to see that America’s future is in good hands.
    Thank you for shedding light on these deserving young people! – Mike

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