NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–Roughly 70 high school students – from New Brunswick, Newark, Paterson, Passaic, Rahway and Trenton – took part in Rutgers’ 8th Annual 4-H Summer Science Program in July.

Students, three of which were from New Brunswick, had the chance to participate in hands-on activities at Rutgers New Brunswick’s Cook Student Center exploring a variety of subjects such as food science, marine and environmental sciences, and horticultural engineering.

“It’s a great opportunity for them to explore a wide variety of STEM disciplines,” Chad Ripberger, co-director of the program, told New Brunswick Today.

“Most teenagers have a very limited understanding of what scientists and engineers do and of the many diverse and exciting STEM career opportunities available to them.”

Ripberger noted that students who join and become Rutgers 4-H STEM Ambassadors, pay it forward by teaching science and engineering to their peers and younger kids through afterschool, Saturday, and summer programs.

Among the student ambassadors is 15-year-old Priya Jain, who took part in the program for the second year.

“I definitely want to go into the sciences [when I graduate] and maybe leaning toward somewhere in the medical field but I’m not exactly sure,” Jain said. “I believe this program taught me you can go into college undecided and that’s fine.”

“It also opened up the world of marine biology to me,” she continued.  “I was able to spend the day with a marine biologist and learn about the ways global warming affects not only animals on land but those in the ocean as well.”

Jain, who lives in South River and will be a junior this fall at Woodbridge Academy, said with the lessons she acquired at Rutgers she plans to raise awareness in her community about how to protect the environment.

“I also enjoyed making friends and learning about all the resources a college can offer,” she added.

The program was partly launched as a response to a 2006 report from the National Academies, titled “Rising Above the Gathering Storm,” which highlighted a need for improvement in K-12 science and technology education to increase the country’s ranking on a global level.

According to Rutgers, the report “identifies the U.S. maintaining leadership in science and technology as critical to securing our future social and economic wellbeing, but acknowledges several indicators that suggest we are losing ground.”

The 4-H Summer Science program will continue next year at Rutgers New Brunswick.

Any high school student interested in applying the Summer Science Program, or any other Rutgers 4-H Youth Development program, can contact program associate Laura Eppinger at [email protected] or 848-932-7623.