Auburn University is helping minority youth to discover first-hand how agriculture, engineering, technology and natural resources relate to the world around them and to experience the excitement of academic excellence, leadership, technical development and teamwork.
Attended by 132 students from 40 schools located across the state, Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences recently hosted the first Alabama Jr. Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences Leadership Institute, or MANRRS, to stimulate interest in science, technology, engineering, agricultural and mathematics fields.
MANRRS is a national program with chapters located at colleges and universities throughout the country. Created to support long-term academic success and leadership development of minorities, the Jr. MANRRS program serves to encourage junior high and high school students to attend college and pursue degrees in agriculture, natural resources and related sciences.
For those minority students wishing to pursue forestry and natural resources management degrees at Auburn, the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences offers generous scholarships through the African American Alumni Endowed Scholarship and the Resource Management Service Annual Scholarship.
In addition to increasing and expanding the awareness of young people regarding career choices and possibilities, Jr. MANRRS provides a networking opportunity that includes meeting new people, making contacts and creating a foundation for professional relationship building.
“We wanted the students to know that there are many career choices and to get a chance for them to explore those career opportunities with varying professionals,” said Michelle Cole, an outreach coordinator with the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences and co-advisor for Auburn’s MANRRS and Jr. MANRRS.
Some of the activities included a team building exercise, an impromptu speaking contest, a dress for success presentation and a college prep awareness forum. “Our goal was for the students to learn about science and how it relates to everyday life and how it could be fun,” Cole said.
Brenda Allen, School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences assistant professor of urban forestry and faculty advisor for Auburn’s MANRRS and Jr. MANRRS, said she believes Jr. MANRRS is a good way to teach and strengthen leadership skills in students which can be used in all aspects in their lives. “At the same time we are also introducing them to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, also known as the STEM disciplines,” said Allen.
Brandi Douglas, a parent whose children attended the Jr. MANRRS Leadership Institute, believes the experience was very beneficial to her daughters. “As a parent, I loved watching my girls branch out into leadership positions and learn new and exciting concepts. As an educator, I appreciated the value of the learning experiences that they received at the conference. It had a positive impact on my girls and I’m sure they will use what they learned while attending,” she said.
Lillian Douglas, a fifth-grade student at Prattville Middle School, said she was so inspired by Jr. MANRRS that she is considering starting a program at her own school. “I would probably want to start a Jr. MANRRS at my school because of the fact that a lot of people at my school love planting, they love animals, and I believe that it will be like a really fun thing for me and my classmates and my peers to do,” she said.
The program was made possible with the support of LaRay Martin Transportation, Marcus Washington, Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Alabama, USDA Veterinary Services and Weyerhaeuser and major sponsors, including Auburn’s College of Agriculture and the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.
Exhibitors who participated in the event included Auburn’s Office of Admissions and Outreach, the Colleges of Agriculture, Science and Mathematics, School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Army Corp of Engineers, National MANRRS organization and the U.S. Forest Service.
Because this year’s Jr. MANRRS Leadership Institute was so successful, Cole said there are plans to make it an annual event which will rotate among the three chapters located within the state.
Although established to benefit minorities, MANRRS offers opportunities for all students.