NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — New Jersey 4-H STEM Ambassadors joined faculty at Rutgers University for the 2023 Climate Sustainability Summit on November 10th, a day of learning, discovery, collaboration and action.
The summit, which was attended by 25 youth from New Jersey’s biggest cities, addressed the importance of being sustainable and fulfilling the needs of current generations without compromising the needs of future generations, while ensuring a balance between economic growth, environmental care and social well-being. The youth attending the summit were drawn from seven NJ counties, enabling students from cities such as Trenton, Jersey City, Paterson, Newark, Atlantic City and New Brunswick to participate.
The attendees are part of the 4-H STEM Ambassador program, where youth are selected to participate in year-round experiences designed to promote STEM identity and college readiness among those underrepresented in science and engineering. Rutgers 4-H faculty and staff connect limited resource and first-generation students to scientists and engineers across the entire university system as they work together to conduct research and tackle problems in a variety of STEM fields. These STEM Ambassadors also act as role models for younger youth within their communities.
Rutgers faculty provided authentic research opportunities, laboratory experiences, discussions, and mentorship around issues of sustainability and renewable energy. Summit ‘23 was supported by faculty from the following Rutgers units: Department of Materials Science, led, by Dr. Lisa Klein; the Rutgers Center for Mathematics, Science, and Computer Education with Dr. Eddie Cohen; Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences with Dr. Josh Kohut; Michael Kornitas, director of Sustainability and Energy Facilities Maintenance and Operations; Dr. Marjorie Kaplan, Senior Associate Director, Rutgers Climate and Energy Institute; Dr. Sean Duffy, associate professor in the Department of Psychology, Rutgers Camden; and Dr. James Shope, environmental scientist in the Department of Environmental Sciences.
During the summit, STEM Ambassadors were informed about different topics concerning building a more sustainable future for New Jersey. They engaged in different hands-on activities to help them understand a diverse array of topics surrounding sustainability. These topics ranged from food systems to renewable energy to environmentally friendly infrastructure. The STEM Ambassadors were then given the challenge to take what they learned and turn it into an actionable plan back in their own communities. Some youth will be presenting what they learned to local Boards of Education or local environmental groups, and some will use what they learned to teach back to younger youth in their communities.
Rutgers 4-H facilitates enriching relationships between the pre-college teenagers and faculty, promoting a welcoming, equitable and supportive learning environment.
The summit also involves several undergraduate and graduate students in the planning, implementation and evaluation of the program – providing first-hand experience in community engagement for the Rutgers students. The 2023 Climate Sustainability Summit was funded by Bluepoint Wind.