This summer, J&J MedTech’s Jacksonville, Florida campus hosted North America’s first WiSTEM2D Camp Initiative for 65 youth. For attendees, it was an eye-opening look into the many career opportunities that exist and a closer look into what really matters
A New Summer Camp with a Rich History
From its founding days, Johnson and Johnson (J&J) has championed women in science and healthcare. In fact, eight of J&J’s first 14 employees were women. Now, more than 130 years later, J&J continues to further its commitment through the WiSTEM2D initiative. WiSTEM2D, which stands for Women in Science, Technology Engineering, Math, Manufacturing and Design, was founded in 2015 and has inspired girls and women in their pursuit of STEM2D studies and careers around the world.
There are four main pillars of the WiSTEM2D program: Youth Outreach, University, Professional, and Partnerships. This summer, J&J MedTech launched the WiSTEM2D Camp Initiative in Jacksonville to foster enhanced STEM awareness for youth from northeast Florida. This was an important milestone in the program as the first WiSTEM2D Camp in North America and only the third WiSTEM2D Camp held worldwide.
The camp, which ran from July 24 to July 28, brought together campers from ages 12 through 16 and represented 20 different Jacksonville-area schools. It was a week full of immersive opportunities and important connections that were made possible through the collaboration of WiSTEM2D’s Youth, University, and Partnership pillars.
Not Your Average Summer Experience
The inaugural WiSTEM2D camp in Jacksonville was full of unique experiences for students to get inspired and educated about the opportunities that may be available to them in the future.
Through J&J, the students also gained awareness of employment needs in the supply chain and manufacturing fields. The camp featured hands-on workshops, notable guest speakers, and, of course, ice cream.
“I loved all the science in R&D and making the liquid nitrogen ice cream!” commented one of the student attendees. Another shared, “Everything was so interesting, I loved learning about how contacts are made and shipped in the tours in manufacturing and distribution.”
Three J&J Associates, Charissa Lucien Saint Louis, Alexandria Irish, and Hawa Drame, led the Jacksonville camp. “I got involved in the WiSTEM2D camp program because of my passion for education and equal opportunities, especially for underprivileged youth. Coming from that background, I always wish to provide what I didn’t get to experience to the next generation,” said Charissa Lucien Saint Louis.
In addition to diverse experiences, the students were exposed to several Employee Resource Groups (ERG) at J&J that support diverse employee communities. Representatives from the African American Leadership Council (AALC), Open & Out (supporting LGBTQIA+), Genoa, and HOLA (supporting Hispanic and Latino cultures) ERG’s provided valuable insights into diverse STEM career paths. For many student participants, it allowed them to integrate themselves in the fabric of J&J’s culture.
A Look at the Future
One of the camp highlights was the career path panel, which featured J&J employees who volunteered their time to the program. The panel provided an opportunity for students to ask career-related questions of people currently working in the field, including what universities to attend, what jobs have the most international travel, and whether there were opportunities to give back through volunteering.
Students were also greeted by Clay Yarborough, a Florida state senator, and Lake Ray, the President of the First Coast Manufacturing Association. Senator Yarborough encouraged the students to envision a future where their STEM knowledge could shape government policies and community development. He also stressed the importance of finding a career that balanced challenging experiences and personal well-being.
"J&J Vision has a heart and desire to reach out to our local communities," said Sen. Yarborough. "Not many young people, like you, have the chance to come into a company like this. When you're looking at careers and opportunities that will support you and your family, also look at what the company offers to inspire you to bring your best self to work."
Lake Ray talked about different educational paths to starting a career in supply chain or manufacturing: "I know some of you may be looking at ways you can get a good job without a master’s degree or college degree," Lake said. "Just know there are a lot of opportunities that will qualify you to work for a great company like this - like associate’s degrees or certifications. Now is the opportunity for you to take a look at roles in manufacturing and supply chain and see if the path is right for you. Because we need people for those jobs."
Receiving Support and Giving Back
Community support is an important component of nearly every J&J program, and the WiSTEM2D camp was no exception. The camp collected approximately 216 lbs. of dry grocery items to donate to the Feeding Northeast Florida food drive. That translates to nearly 180 total meals for J&J’s Jacksonville community members, directly impacting local children, families, and seniors in a positive way.
Overall, the event left students with a new awareness of Johnson & Johnson’s culture, the WiSTEM2D program, and future career possibilities that they may have never dreamed of before. Charissa Lucien Saint Louis added, “The campers were able to learn from government officials, doctors, clinicians, scientists, engineers and more. Sometimes it's easier to dream about where you can go when you have an example of what’s possible, and I’m glad we could provide that.” The camp aligned with J&J’s vision of building a diverse STEM2D community, thus improving healthcare and helping people everywhere live happier, healthier lives.
For more information on Johnson & Johnson’s WiSTEM2D program, visit their website.