NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — A team of Rutgers students celebrated with local youth, their families and representatives from the Apple Community Education Initiative (CEI) team at the 4-H Computer Science (CS) Pathways showcase held May 3 at the Paul Robeson Campus Center, the event included a six-person panel of students from Rutgers–Newark and career professionals sharing their CS pathways story, while parents and community members had a chance to see youth creations and learn about CS pathway opportunities.
The showcase was the culminating event for a two-semester-long work program supported by a gift from Apple in which the Rutgers students led local middle-school-age students involved in 4-H Clovers CODE (Creating Opportunities Designed for Everyone) in creating apps designed to address their community’s needs, including homelessness, pollution and youth mental health.
The 4-H Clovers CODE program is supported by a gift from the Apple CEI, which was launched in 2019 and has introduced thousands to coding and app design. The gift provided Rutgers 4-H with hardware, professional learning and support for STEM programs using the Apple curriculum. This creativity curriculum offered hands-on learning in the areas of coding, photography, video, drawing and music. In addition, the Apple gift provided support for a staff member and the Rutgers college students.
The Rutgers students were trained on positive youth development by faculty of the Department of 4-H Youth Development, a department within Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE). The Rutgers students were also trained by the CEI team on Apple’s “Everyone Can Code” curriculum, challenge-based learning and app design.
Rutgers 4-H will continue to offer CS programming as a STEM pathway for local youth in an ongoing partnership with Apple’s CEI.
“This program highlights the opportunities for Rutgers as our land-grant institution to better engage community partnerships with Rutgers students, faculty, and community youth,” said Marissa Staffen, project co-investigator and 4-H agent, RCE of Essex County. “The collaboration among Apple CEI, Rutgers students and the Department of 4-H Youth Development is a perfect marriage of resources to bring high-quality STEM programing for community youth.”
Manuel Sosa-Garcia, a first-generation Rutgers-Newark student, who is also part of the Honors Living Learning Community and Urban Education program, was one of the college students in the program. “As a Rutgers University student interested in becoming an educator, the program allowed me to formulate another outlook on the educational field—committing to children’s enrichment and social mobility. An outlook that I will take with me when I become a teacher is to foster an environment that cultivates the talents and creativity of students.”
Rutgers 4-H high-school-age STEM Ambassadors worked alongside the college students to help lead the younger youth through their app design challenges and other hands-on CS activities.
Program coordinator Victoria Bruno, who graduated with a master’s degree in public administration from the Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA’22), came up through the 4-H program as a STEM Ambassador when she was in the ninth grade.
“Putting young people in the position to solve problems as a team drives our STEM programs forward and creates great impact. This program helps us to see the benefits of bringing students to a college campus, showing them applications of STEM, and connecting them to their communities.” said Bruno. “There was great enthusiasm from both youth and their parents to come to the CS clubs, we had a full house for every meeting.”
Marycarmen Kunicki is a Passaic County 4-H Agent who collaborated on the program. “With the rapid changes in technology and the anticipated growth in the computer science field it’s important to expose our youth to this industry. Providing quality youth programming to those who are interested will better prepare our youth for a future in many STEM fields.”
Kunicki also stressed that the youth are improving life skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving and working in teams.
Rutgers 4-H is seeking additional community partners, including after school programs, in-school programs and libraries, who may be interested in collaborating to offer CS programs for middle school youth in Essex and Passaic counties. To learn more about how to partner or how youth may join the program, visit https://essex.njaes.rutgers.edu/4h/educators/ and https://passaic.njaes.rutgers.edu/4h/.