Annual Youth Lab Propels Students at Full STEAM

June 23, 2010

Youth from 19 counties around Texas left Prairie View A&M University much more knowledgeable about science, technology, engineering, agriculture and mathematics (STEAM) June 17 after spending three days of hands-on learning during the Cooperative Extension Program’s 2010 4-H Career Awareness and Youth leadership Lab.

“The students, ages 14-18, were chosen by extension agents located in Bell, Bexar, Cherokee, Falls, Fort Bend, Grimes, Harris, Marion, Smith, Tarrant, Travis, Waller, Washington and Webb counties,” said Gail Long, program specialist – 4-H & Youth and Youth Lab chair. “Our intent was to expose these young people to careers in the agricultural and food sciences.  In addition, one of the main thrusts of 4-H nationally is science, engineering and technology so we also offered workshops in those areas to strengthen their knowledge base.”

Housed on campus at University College, the youth participated in an array of events including roundtable discussions, networking opportunities and workshops that were centered on the STEAM theme.  Such workshops included “Saving a Life: CPR-First Aid,” “From Citizen to Community Leader,” and “Hard Body Tuff! The Food and Fitness Connection.”

Workshops were designed to not only stimulate the students’ interest, but also to educate them on how to be successful in society economically, nutritionally, as well as creatively.

During the “Express Yourself” workshop, which allowed students to create and produce their own magazine including self taken photographs and their personal accounts of the Youth Lab, participant Jackie Reese discussed what she learned in the “Grown and On Your Own” workshop.

Reese said, “Materialistic things come last.  You can’t be worried about the 20-inch rims you want on your car when you have bills to pay.  Either you work and get paid or are broke trying to depend on others.”

Jakayla Debera, left, of Washington County and Kyanna Washington study DNA technology in the Youth Lab's "DNA 411" session.

Interested in learning more about science and technology, Jakayla Dabera joined the “DNA-411” workshop where she was able to make necklaces from extracted cheek cells.  Dabera expressed excitement about the workshop saying, “I’ve always wanted to learn about DNA.”

Josh Beasley, left, and DJ Johnson of Dallas County learn a lot about robotics at the CEP 2010 Youth Lab.

A  workshop was also included on how robotics can be used in the field of agriculture and human sciences.  “The Robotics and the Robot Machine workshop was very interesting,” said DJ Johnson of Dallas County. “You can build and repair farm equipment and other types of equipment using this technology, and I want to be a mechanic when I grow up, so this session was a good class to take.”

In addition to the workshops, the youth led the general sessions and had the chance to hear a motivational talk from Keith Davis, a 19 year old entrepreneur, and Frank Jackson, mayor of the city of Prairie View and the university’s governmental affairs officer, who gave them a detailed history of Prairie View A&M University and how it grew into a major institution of learning for mainly African-Americans in the early years, who were limited on where they could attend college in Texas.

The Lab concluded with an awards luncheon where Andre Johnson, president and CEO of Speaking Muscles Academy and Institute was keynote speaker.

Johnson encouraged students to discover and identify their DNA or dynamic natural ability, because it will position them to dominate their industry or career field.

“Greatness lies from within,” said Johnson.

Johnson emphasized that things will not always be easy, and that success comes from doing things not always desired.  He told students to strive for three R’s when becoming successful.  Johnson said reputation, reliability and relationships are essential.

“You’re committed to your excellence,” said Johnson. “Make a decision to listen to people around you.”

Pictured left to right are Scott Horner, extension research specialist, S.A.L.E. scholarship award winners, Keith Hamilton and Conlee Fry, Scereta Rodriguez--S.A.L.E. scholarship coordinator, and Dr. Freddie L. Richards, Sr., dean, College of Agriculture and Human Sciences and administrator, Cooperative Extension Program.

At the luncheon students were also awarded for their academic achievement. Scereta Rodriguez, scholarship coordinator of the San Antonio Livestock Exposition (S.A.L.E) presented Keith Hamilton, San Antonio, Texas, Samuel Clemens High School in Bexar County and Conlee Fry, Hockley, Texas, Waller High School in Waller County, scholarships in the amount of $15,000. Both of them will attend Prairie View A&M University in the fall.

Volunteer leaders, who accompanied the CEP county staff and students to the Lab and are very instrumental in identifying these young people that attend the 4-H events, were awarded certificates for their hard work and diligence. “We are always appreciative of our volunteer leaders and the work that they do to strengthen our county programs,” said Dr. Freddie L. Richards, Sr., dean, College of Agriculture and Human Sciences and administrator, Cooperative Extension Program.

Dr. Richards recognized several individuals who brought greetings to the youth at the awards luncheon including Dr. Felecia M. Nave, associate provost and associate vice-president for Academic Affairs, Prairie View A&M University, Chelsee Hill, Miss PVAMU, 2009-2010 and Dr. Mark Poth, research director – Competitive Programs, USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

For more information about the Career Awareness & Youth Leadership Laboratory, contact Gail Long at 936/261-5119, or visit

Writers: Whitney Harris, PVAMU Student – English Major
and Gloria J. Mosby, program director – Communications, Cooperative Extension Program

Photo credits: Alecea Rush, communications specialist – Cooperative Extension Program