By Doris Cousens, Director, JSHS
At the JSHS regional and national competitions, students and their research projects take center stage. Yet behind the scenes are hundreds of volunteers who make it happen. JSHS events are only possible through collaboration and volunteer contributions of thousands of Department of Defense scientists and engineers and university faculty. And, most importantly, local champions like Gayle Grant.
In her professional life, Grant has a very long title as Branch Chief at U.S. Army CERDEC (Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center) Flight Activity at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JB MDL), New Jersey. As the expression goes, she’s kind of a big deal. To us, she is volunteer-extraordinaire.
Grant’s involvement with South Jersey JSHS (also known as South Jersey Science Symposium at Ocean County Community College) is an example of volunteerism that stands out this year because the program was actually at risk of closing. Without South Jersey JSHS, 350 students would not have a local symposium in which to showcase their work. Fortunately, a core team of volunteers—with Grant at the heart—helped save the symposium. She and a private sector partner, Specialty Systems Inc., were pivotal in helping us make the transition from Monmouth University to the new host, Ocean County Community College, thus allowing the program to continue.
Grant’s contributions to JSHS go back more than a decade, serving as the Technical Paper and Volunteer Coordinator during her tenure. In this role, she engages volunteer mentors from the Department of Defense labs and professional engineering organizations in a unique mentorship component that provides one-on-one advising to students. These mentors help students refine presentation content, clarify key messages and provide feedback on public speaking skills.
“I always want to give back in any way. I, and many other mentors, stay involved because these students are our future.” said Grant. “Mentors get as much out of it as the students. They see progress from orientation through final presentations and watch students grow within six months – and they know that this growth is due in large part to their efforts.” Grant has worked on state of the art technology throughout her entire career with the Army. And through JSHS, she is able to encourage the next generation of engineers and scientists.
The South Jersey JSHS volunteers have a long history of collaboration and volunteer contributions from DoD laboratories, including: Communications-Electronics Research, Development & Engineering Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Armament Research, Development & Engineering Center, Naval Air Systems Command and Naval Weapons Station Earle.
What is success in this JSHS region? “If everyone enjoys the Symposium,” according to Grant. “And if we provide enriching opportunities to introduce students to careers that they may not have known about.”
South Jersey JSHS and the National JSHS extend our thanks to local partners who also make this symposia possible: Ocean County Community College (new host), New Jersey Institute of Technology, Specialty Systems and local government agencies.
Will you be the next JSHS volunteer? Or student competitor? To find your regional JSHS, please visit the JSHS website.