The Jennings-UMSL Mentorship Program: A JUMPstart for science!

“I think it’s important that we as academics engage with the communities our institutions are situated in, and as biologists, that we work to make science approachable and inclusive for everyone.”

—Meghann Humphries, doctoral alum (2019)

Our students are passionate about giving back and paying it forward, and one way they show it is through the Jennings-UMSL Mentorship Program (JUMP). Founded in 2015 by Dr. Patty Parker and the Biology Graduate Student Association, JUMP pairs Jennings High School students with UMSL Biology graduate students to learn about science, college, and life after high school. A hands-on interactive experience, our students share their excitement about science with their high school mentees during field trips and bonding activities, exploring local sites like the Endangered Wolf Center, Riverlands Audubon Center, and even City Museum. As Sage Rohrer (PhD candidate) says, “We can learn about wildlife conservation, take a hike along a riverbank, and climb through St. Louis history at the City Museum, all within less than an hour's drive of their school. Seeing their excitement at discovering so much happening in their backyard is the best part of the program.”

Our PhD students are all required to teach an undergraduate course at least one semester, but JUMP is a different kind of teaching. For Isabel Loza (PhD candidate), it’s an opportunity to provide younger students with the career advice she wished she could have had when she first started—“By sharing my experiences with them, maybe their journey through college will be more enjoyable.” Another JUMP mentor, PhD candidate Emma Young, appreciates that working with high schoolers is also “a nice reminder that there’s more to life than the lab.”

This spring the first cohort of JUMP mentees finished high school, but the program will keep going as long as we have graduate students who are willing to take the time to share their experiences. For that first cohort, their mentors, including Meg Humphries, are just proud. “They all have terrific plans for their futures. I can’t wait to see where they all go.”