By ASHLEY BILES, UGA Griffin
Do you know a high school student who is interested in science and craves a hands-on learning environment?
They may be candidates for the University of Georgia’s Young Scholars Internship Program (YSP).
YSP began on the UGA Griffin Campus in 1989. It is a prestigious internship program for Georgia high school students interested in agricultural, food and environmental sciences.
Selected participants conduct hands-on research with world-renowned scientists through the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. YSP is a paid six-week summer internship where students are actively engaged in research under the guidance of a faculty mentor at UGA-Athens, UGA-Griffin, or UGA-Tifton.
While in the program, students are assigned to work with a researcher and staff on campus for 30 hours per week, typically Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
During their work time, they learn about the research that is ongoing in that department, how to use state-of–the-art laboratory 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 and
attend site visits of various research areas, participate in college preparatory and career-related
workshops, visit scientific research facilities 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.
Austin Clark, a freshman at UGA, participated in the Young Scholars Program at UGA Griffin in 2019 after graduating from Strong Rock Christian Academy. Clark said the program gave him an opportunity for hands-on learning and to 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 in the classroom as well as when I apply for future career opportunities.”
Martha Sikora, a graduate of Spalding High School and a sophomore at UGA, said YSP was 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,” she said. “I worked beside highly recognized mentors that I still have connections with. 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 and a freshman at UGA, said she loved being able to work in a real lab during her time in YSP.
“It meant the world to me as I got to work with known scientists and acquire real-world lab skills for my future career,” she said. “YSP has helped me to try new things without much complaint and value every experience, big and small.”
Mary Grace Johnson, a sophomore at UGA, described her time in YSP as invaluable in helping her make the move from high school to college.
“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 in 2018 and credits YSP with helping with the move 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,” she said. “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 June 1. Graduating seniors must be accepted as incoming freshmen to the University of Georgia to participate.
The online application closes Jan. 31, and in-person interviews for finalists will follow. Selected interns will be notified by April 1, and the program will run from June 1-July 12.
For more information about Young Scholars, visit www.ysp.caes.uga.edu .