A 4-H Alumna who worked as a STEM Ambassadors, teaching STEM skills to underserved youth in 4-H, and another who worked as an intern with UMass Amherst, gained a variety of skills that positioned them for careers requiring advanced degrees. Read on to see how 4-H set them up for success.
From 4-H STEM Ambassador to Chemistry Teacher: Elina Barrows
After participating in 4-H and the Upton Hoofbeats Club, Elina Barrows of Upton went on to “pay it forward” as a summer 4-H STEM Ambassador in college, teaching hands-on STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math) activities to underserved youth throughout Massachusetts. This was much more than a summer job; her time leading STEM activities led to her future career as a chemistry teacher.
Elina’s road to working as a STEM Ambassador started in 4-H. She served as a Teen Leader in Computer Science and STEM for the 4-H Science program. This role enabled her to travel to Washington DC, where she trained along with 4-Hers from around the country and learned Scratch programming for 4-H science activities. This training solidified her science credentials, and she was hired as a STEM Ambassador.
During the summers of 2018 and 2019, Elina introduced youth to science activities in locations throughout Worcester County. The STEM Ambassadors program explores specific science themes each year, and Elina led both a computer science session and a space and engineering session in which the youth made rockets and launched them.
Elina found her spark lit for teaching during her STEM Ambassadors experience. “I enjoyed meeting the kids and seeing them get excited about science,” she explained. Elina also gained practical instructional skills to help her in teaching. “I learned how to manage a classroom setting and prepare curriculum, set up activities, and balance a schedule.”
After earning her Master’s degree in Chemistry from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Elina now teaches Chemistry in her hometown of Upton.
From UMass Intern to Aspiring Veterinarian: Caitlyn Chernicki
After growing up showing cattle as part of the Farmtastic 4-Hers Club, Caitlyn Chernicki was a natural fit for the role of UMass Animal Science Intern in 2020-21. This work experience also contributed to her pursuing her dream of attending veterinary school.
Following her experience in Massachusetts 4-H, Caitlyn volunteered for the organization, including at the annual Blue Ribbon Calf Sale, where she met Carrie Chickering-Sears, Massachusetts 4-H’s Animal Science Program Manager. Carrie then reached out to Caitlyn and asked her to come aboard as her intern, a perfect step towards the pursuit of her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science/Pre-Vet.
Caitlyn’s primary responsibilities as an Animal Science Intern included developing biweekly webinars about animal science nutrition for 4-Hers and the public. “I went around and coordinated online with different speakers who could speak about animal science and nutrition,” she explained. Caitlyn also joined the 4-H Beef Advisory Council.
Caitlyn cites both communication skills and animal nutrition as assets she gained from the position. “Learning the nutrition facts and coordinating the people to speak about them was key in pointing me in the direction I wanted to go. Nutrition is key for every species…I also needed to be able to communicate my opinions,” she said.
Caitlyn first witnessed the importance of veterinary science at her family’s farm, Necka Farm. At times, livestock from the farm could not get the care they needed due to a lack of trained veterinarians. Her experience in 4-H also added to her interest. “Going to The Big E and doing the records on my own influenced me to want to continue my education,” she said.
Caitlyn realized her dream in August, when she matriculates at St. George’s University in Grenada, with the goal of becoming a livestock veterinarian. Before that, she worked as a small animal veterinary technician at Morningstar Animal Hospital in Kingston, as well as a large animal veterinary technician for Dr. Karin Kaczorowski, DVM, in Marshfield.