One would think that middle school kids in a Friday after-school activity would be somewhat tired after a long week. But if you stop by the MySTEM Club classroom at Robert Treat Academy in Newark between 3:30-5:30pm each week, you’ll hear and see an infectious energy. From the opening icebreaker that usually involves talk about fashion to the final minutes spent in joyful dancing to “Cotton-Eyed Joe”, Sriya Jidugu’s class is far from ordinary. But that’s not surprising once you get to know Sriya.
Born in India’s southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh, Sriya came to live in New Jersey with her family when she was young. Her youth was spent in suburban communities not far from the urban NJIT Newark campus, a place she says “feels like home.” What she likes most about NJIT is that it’s a small community where becoming a well-rounded person is a priority. If she had attended a different university she wonders if she would be as confident and out-going as she is now.
As a member of the NJIT Honors program, she is required to complete fifteen hours of on-campus service as well as fifteen service hours within the greater Newark community. This brought Syria and her many talents to JerseySTEM, but she has been applying her talent and enthusiasm to various programs since high school as a peer mentor to underclassmen and summer tutor for special needs kids.
Sriya is a bundle of energy. She is running for election as the NJIT student senate biochemistry representative, dances with the student Ehsaas dance team, and mentors local high schoolers about STEM career paths as part of the Lyra club. So how does she find the time and motivation to be such an inspiring Program Instructor for JerseySTEM? “I just like to make people happy,” is how she explains it. And that she does, as evident by the hugs she receives every Friday from the girls who race to her MySTEM Club classroom. “Working with the younger kids is especially rewarding,” she beams.
Due to her academic standing at NJIT, Sriya gets to be a part of a research team studying medical practices in 19th century Turkey. While not an assigned part of her course load, it is her favorite area of research. Maybe that’s why she plans to attend med school to study neuroscience after receiving her undergraduate degree.
Although it doesn’t seem like there are any hours unaccounted for in her week, Sriya fits in some occasional down-time. When not in class, studying, dancing, or volunteering, she can be found challenging friends in crocheting competitions or perfecting her stove-top cooking skills. Her specialty— jalapeno mac-n-cheese! It seems appropriate for someone with such a zest for life.
Learn more about volunteering with JerseySTEM at https://www.jerseystem.org/program-instructor