Summer is a treasured time for college students. Some want nothing more than to escape the intense workload of higher education. However, others seek experiences that are tough, challenging and bring with them immense rewards that help to better prepare them for their careers.

Here are the summer experiences of a select group of ambitious and forward-thinking young people.

Roscoe A. Johnson IV

Now that Roscoe A. Johnson IV has his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering under his belt, he’s got his sights set on graduate school.

The 22-year-old, who graduated from Morgan State University in May, will spend the summer preparing for that next step-the pursuit of a master’s degree in systems engineering from the University of South California.

In the meantime, Johnson will be interning at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland working on Python guided user interface for a radar system. The opportunity at Johns Hopkins came about after Johnson visited the career services center in Morgan State University’s Engineering Department.

Johnson, a native of Baltimore and the recipient of a community award at the Black Engineer of the Year Award conference in February 2014, said he hopes that from his summer experience he will gain better insight into his future and learn the types of projects he most wants to work on professionally. “I also want to learn different programming and leaderships skills,” he said.

Although he is unsure of the exact field he would like to go into, Johnson said he’s leaning toward a career in modeling and simulation for radar systems.

Destenie Nock

Before Destenie Nock takes off for an international graduate school experience, she’s giving back to the community in a most significant way. The 22-year-old, who received two bachelor degrees in electrical engineering and applied math in May from North Carolina A&T State University, volunteered to tutor math at an elementary school in Greensboro, North Carolina. Throughout the school year, Nock had volunteered at the school and decided to continue doing so over the summer.

Nock, a native of Calvert County, Maryland, is taking a bit of a break from engineering studies and will be working to earn a master’s degree in leadership and sustainable development in Ireland. After that, she plans to re-focus on engineering and secure a doctorate in industrial engineering.

Nock, who was bestowed with an academic award at the Black Engineer of the Year Award conference in February 2014, said that for a career she’s most interested in helping developing nations enhance their power grids and educational programs.

Whitney Wilson

There’s nothing lightweight about the internship Whitney Wilson is doing this summer. The 20-year-old bioengineering major at the University of Maryland, College Park, is working at DuPont as a product stewardship and regulatory intern in the industrial biosciences division.

Wilson, who will be a senior in the fall, is tasked with compiling information and designing a training module on global cosmetic regulations that can potentially be used throughout the division.

This opportunity, located in Wilmington, Delaware, came about through her school’s Career Center’s Listserv.

Wilson, who received an academic award at the Black Engineer of the Year Award conference in February 2014, hopes to gain experience working in the product stewardship and regulatory area. “I have not had the chance to work in such a large, interdisciplinary, global company,” said Wilson. “I look forward to being able to apply my knowledge in a new way, especially since this is a non-technical position.”

A native of Bear, Delaware, Wilson has a clear vision for her future. “Ultimately I would like to work in STEM education,” she said “I plan to go to graduate school and hopefully get a master’s degree in engineering and public policy. I want to use my knowledge and skill-sets to help with the STEM education of others.”

Ciara Lynton

Ciara Lynton, 19, hasn’t determined her ultimate career goal.

Still, that’s not stopping her from diving head first into the engineering field. The junior at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, spent this past summer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Lynton, who was recognized with a research award at the Black Engineer of the Year Award 2014 conference, became eligible for the summer internship after she was admitted into the NASA MUREP scholarship program last September

“I hope to gain a plethora of knowledge about robotics,” said Lynton who worked in NASA’s human-robotics department. “Also, I hope that this opportunity helps me to narrow down my interest in engineering.”

While she ponders her career path, Lynton said she is sure of one thing.

“I would like to make a difference in the world through my electrical engineering background,” she said.

Alex Killam

Alex Killam isn’t waiting for his upcoming senior year at college to begin to figure out the direction for his career once he graduates. This summer, the 20-year-old electronic engineering major at Norfolk State University interned at Chrysler in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

He’s working with the company’s vehicle integration team, testing the 2015 police Dodge Charger primarily, as well as the 2015 police Ram and 2015 police Dodge Durango. “My main responsibility is to prepare the upcoming police units for the police catalog test done by the Michigan State Police Department and the Los Angeles Police Department,” said Killam. “These tasks involve diagnosing and fixing any electrical issues with the car as well as performance issues.”

After receiving a Black Engineer of the Year athletic award and attending the conference’s career fair, Killam met with Chrysler representatives at the fair. He obviously made a positive impression. “I was blessed to receive two internship offers from Chrysler in engineering and manufacturing,” he said. “I accepted the engineering internship shortly thereafter.”

Killam has high expectations of his internship learning about the company’s working environment, networking and soaking up as much as he can about the automotive industry and how electronic engineering relates.

However, the Newport News, Virginia, native admits he’s not completely sure of his future career field.

“I feel as I am still learning so much now that I want to see how I can apply it. I am interested in so many different types of careers it is hard to make a decision now. The only thing that I do know is that I really want to make a difference wherever I go. I want to apply all the knowledge and drive that I contain to help innovate and create a positive impact,” he said.

Joi Carter

Joi Carter could have done many different things this past summer. However, she chose to give back.
When Carter was a freshman at North Carolina A&T State University, she was mentored through the school’s Helping Orient Minorities to Engineering (HOME) program. She described the experience as eye-opening and promised herself to one day do the same for others. That day came this summer when Carter put off starting a full-time job to work at North Carolina A&T as a lead mentor in the program.

The goal of the program is to help orient minorities to engineering and foster their personal, professional and academic development. Carter, a recipient of a 2014 Black Engineer of the Year leadership award, explained that the five-week program is offered to the top 10 percent of incoming freshman engineers at North Carolina A&T and is designed to facilitate their transition from high school to college.

“The people and activities in this program severely impacted my successful matriculation through A&T,” said Carter, adding that she wanted to be of service to the incoming students. HOME also afforded her “the opportunity to experience a multitude of things while at A&T that I never dreamed of before coming to college.”

Now that summer’s over, the 22-year-old computer science major who graduated in May is rolling up her sleeves for a new chapter in her life working for Northrop Grumman in Linthicum, Maryland, in the professional development program.

She also plans to pursue a master’s degree in computer science as well as create programs to introduce young people to the STEM field.

Nijel Rogers

Learning about leadership has been at the heart of Nijel Rogers summer experience.

The 21-year-old who will be a senior this fall at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point is majoring in chemical engineering, and spent three weeks at Fort Drum, New York, shadowing a military officer in the aviation unit. He also had the opportunity to work not only work with multiple types of helicopters and aircraft technology but also to test his leadership skills by subbing in as a temporary platoon leader and leading a group of 10 soldiers through their daily objectives.

He also attended the 100 Black Men of America National Conference held in Fort Lauderdale. He represented West Point and talked to high school and college students about the opportunities at the military academy as well as how the 100 Black Men of Atlanta program helped him develop into the leader he is today.

And for six weeks, he and eight other cadets were the primary leaders of West Point’s mandated cadet field training.

“My mentors pushed me to strive for leadership positions that, while requiring more work than some jobs, best prepare me for service as an officer in the United States Army,” said Rogers, who credits his mentors and the academy for the opportunities. “I enjoy the fact my summer is packed because the benefits of what I gain from my work far outweigh the desire for simply having an easy summer.”

The native of Atlanta, who was recognized with a Black Engineer of the Year military leadership award in 2014, said he hopes that through his summer experiences he learns about his leadership weaknesses and develops into a more efficient leader.

Rogers is quite enthusiastic about his becoming a commissioned officer, serving in the military and continuing to study chemical engineering.

Vladimir Moricette

Doing research may not be some people’s idea of a great way to spend one’s summer, but Vladimir Moricette isn’t one of those people.

The 22-year-chemistry major at Kennesaw State University conducted research under the direction of John Salerno, Ph.D., professor of biotechnology at KSU. He worked on the function of control elements in nitric oxide signaling.

The senior is optimistic he’ll be able to get his research published.

Moricette, who was born in New York but reared in Haiti until he was 18, is also working to get into pharmacy school with the goal of being a pharmacist.

He was awarded a Black Engineer of the Year community award in 2014.

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