Essex County students to graduate from prestigious New Jersey STEM program

CHATHAM, NJ — On Saturday, May 21, Essex County residents Deborah McDougall and JéVanni Napoleon, of East Orange; Elaina Mann, of Livingston; Leonard Jasper, of Maplewood; Julia Schanen, of Montclair; Achunike Okafor, of Newark; Alexandre Jean, of Verona; and Nathaniel Vinoya, of West Orange, will graduate from Governor’s STEM Scholars, a program of the Research & Development Council of New Jersey. They are part of a class of 95 New Jersey high school and college students to complete the year-long program, which provides a 360-degree view of New Jersey’s STEM economy through conferences, lab tours, master classes and research. 

A public-private partnership among the Research & Development Council of New Jersey, the governor’s office, the New Jersey Department of Education, the secretary of higher education, and public and private research companies, Governor’s STEM Scholars provides high-achieving high school, college and graduate students with a comprehensive introduction to the state’s STEM economy. The scholars are a diverse and representative group of student leaders from all across the Garden State who excel in STEM and are interested in pursuing STEM-related majors and careers.

“This weekend, the Governor’s STEM Scholars will graduate 95 of New Jersey’s most promising STEM students,” said Alise Roderer, program director. “As Governor’s STEM Scholars, these students received a comprehensive introduction to New Jersey’s STEM economy, highlighting some of the most innovative and exciting STEM organizations in the state through conferences, field trips, internship opportunities and a research project.”

“With more scientists and engineers per square mile than anywhere else around the globe, New Jersey has one of the country’s most highly educated workforces and is a national STEM research hub,” said Anthony Cicatiello, president of the Research & Development Council of New Jersey. “By 2027, STEM jobs are projected to grow by 9 percent in New Jersey. The Governor’s STEM Scholars introduces the state’s best and brightest STEM students to the STEM companies, professionals, research and opportunities available in the Garden State. Through the Governor’s STEM Scholars, we are ensuring our state’s talented students stay in New Jersey to fill these roles, securing our academic and workforce pipeline for the future.”

Throughout the academic year, the scholars participated in four conferences highlighting New Jersey STEM opportunities in government, academia and industry. Each scholar was led by a college-level team leader, mentored through professional STEM advisers and produced a viable research project.

McDougall and Napoleon are juniors at East Orange STEM Academy; Mann is a senior at Livingston High School; Jasper is a senior at Columbia High School; Schanen is a senior at Montclair High School; Okafor is a junior at Science Park High School; Jean is a senior at Verona High School; and Vinoya is a freshman at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.

As graduates of Governor’s STEM Scholars, students will have access to the Governor’s STEM Scholars alumni network of nearly 600 students, which will enable them to stay connected to STEM jobs and opportunities within the state.

Applications for the 2022-2023 Governor’s STEM Scholars program are open through June 10. For more information, visit