For high school students interested in agriculture, food and environmental sciences, the University of Georgia offers the opportunity to have hands-on learning with world-renowned research scientists through the Young Scholars Program (YSP). YSP is a six-week long paid summer internship organized by the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences which hopes to broaden students interests in various fields of study. Students can apply to be part of the program at three UGA campuses: Athens, Griffin and Tifton, with applications being accepted now through January 31, 2023.
While in the program, students are assigned to work with a researcher and their staff on campus. They learn about the research that is ongoing in that department, how to use lab equipment and work in the field, as well as completing their own research project under the guidance of their mentor. On the UGA Griffin Campus, students spend Fridays with fellow young scholars where they attend site visits of many departments, participate in college and career related workshops and play interactive games to give them a chance to know each other.
YSP concludes each year with a pre-collegiate conference at the University of Georgia campus in Athens. Students have the chance to interact with other YSP students from the Athens and Tifton campuses, stay in the dorms, learn about the UGA admissions process and take part in behind the scenes tours of various university departments.
The best advocates for YSP are the students who have participated, and several former Young Scholars were eager to share their experience with the program in hopes of encouraging other students to apply.
Austin Clark, participated in the Young Scholars Program at UGA Griffin in 2019 after graduating from Strong Rock Christian Academy. When asked how the program benefited him, he stated it gave him an opportunity to have hands-on learning and use the knowledge he gained in the classroom.
“During my time with the Young Scholars Program, I was able to experience and practice skills I learned in the classroom in a professional, lab setting,” said Clark. “By conducting specialized research, I was able to sharpen my critical thinking, analytical, and writing skills - all of which will give me a competitive edge amongst my peers in the classroom as well as when I apply for future career opportunities.”
For Martha Sikora, a graduate of Spalding High School and former young scholar, YSP proved to be a valuable learning experience.
“I participated in YSP for two summers and I was exposed to field research in the Department of Horticulture and lab research in the Center for Food Safety. I worked beside highly recognized mentors that I still have connections with,” said Sikora. “It was a great opportunity for me to discover science fields that I had never heard of before and to develop a sense of what research is like. I improved my public speaking skills, had fun, and learned how to think like a scientist.”
Tamara English, a graduate of Dutchtown High School, loved being able to work in a real lab during her time in YSP.
“My YSP experience was amazing! It meant the world to me as I got to work with known scientist and acquire real-world lab skills for my future career. YSP has helped me to try new things without much complaint and value every experience, big and small.”
As for college, she added that YSP helped her to work on her time management and leadership skills.
Mary Grace Johnson describes her time in YSP as invaluable in helping her make the move from high school to college.
“During my two summers at YSP, I was so fortunate to work as a lab intern under two outstanding mentors, Dr. Alfredo Martinez and Dr. Ynes Ortega. I learned so much from my mentors who were very willing to dedicate their time to help me, and that is what YSP is all about,” said Johnson. “I was able to make connections with other professors and faculty of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences that helped me have the best transition into college.”
Johnson graduated from Flint River Academy and credits YSP with helping the change from a small private school to a large university.
“I met many other students through YSP making my classes at UGA feel smaller, and even had the opportunity to go to Costa Rica with YSP to learn more about sustainable agriculture. My time as an intern for YSP changed my life forever because it helped me gain knowledge in subject areas I never thought I would be interested in and also sparked my interest in research. I can't thank the Young Scholars Program, and everyone who keeps it going, enough for being such a great part of my life.”
Students interested in participating in YSP must be 16 years old and have completed their sophomore year of high school by the program start date of May 31, 2023.
The online application for the program closes January 31, 2023, and in-person interviews for finalists will follow. Selected interns will be notified by April 1, and the program will run from May 31 to July 14.
For more information about Young Scholars, visit www.ysp.caes.uga.edu.