Campus News

Young Dawgs prepares high school students for success

From left: Young Dawgs student Robby Ratajczak; Luke Mortenson, an assistant professor of regenerative medicine and engineering; and Bobby Leitman, a regenerative bioscience graduate assistant, examine cells in the lab. (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski)

Thanks to UGA’s Young Dawgs Program, Christina Kurian got to experience college life when she was still in high school.

And she is not the only one.

Since its inception in 2008, the program has hosted 1,093 high school students who have served more than 120,230 internship hours in 414 different UGA centers, labs, departments, institutes and offices, as well as in Athens community businesses. UGA faculty and staff have been integral in providing opportunities for these students.

“Over the 10 years of the program, I have been most impressed by the willingness of UGA’s faculty and staff to take the time to provide these life-changing opportunities for these young students,” said Jim Geiser, coordinator of the Young Dawgs Program. “It makes me proud to be a Georgia Bulldawg.”

Young Dawgs is a rigorous experiential learning program that provides high school juniors and seniors with internship opportunities in areas related to their career interests. The internships give students valuable immersive and hands-on learning experiences on a college campus while still in high school.  Young Dawgs is administered through Human Resources’ Training & Development Department, which is part of the Division of Finance & Administration.

The Entrepreneurship Program in the Terry College of Business and the Regenerative Bioscience Center are two of the on-campus partners that have served as hosts for Young Dawgs interns. While the missions of these departments vary, the positive impact of the Young Dawgs Program is felt by faculty, staff and students alike.

“The contributions to the Entrepreneurship Program by the students in the Young Dawgs Program has been tremendous,” said Robert Pinckney, director of the UGA Entrepreneurship Program. “The interest, creativity and support to the program by these talented individuals have helped drive the Entrepreneurship Program to be successful. These students are definitely making a lasting impact on the university.”

As a former Young Dawg, Kurian is paying her experience forward by helping to supervise Matteo Castile, a current Young Dawg. Both work in the UGA Entrepreneurship Program.

“Being a part of the Young Dawgs Program last year gave me an early start in my college experience at UGA,” said Kurian, a pre-business major who graduated from Clarke Central High School. “I was in Matteo’s shoes last year, and it has been a privilege to be one of his mentors and to watch him develop throughout the year. I hope to build his skills in a variety of areas to help him not only in college but also in his career.”

Robby Ratajczak is a Young Dawgs participant mentored by Bobby Leitmann, a graduate research assistant at the Regenerative Bioscience Center.

Through the Young Dawgs program, Ratajczak has been able to learn about careers in a variety of fields, such as bioengineering, before making a decision on his future studies.

“Young Dawgs is an amazing program,” said Ratajczak. “I have learned an inexplicable amount about subjects I would have never been involved with if I was not involved in this program. It has been and continues to be a wonderful experience that has helped me formulate where I want to go with my future.”

The Young Dawgs Program is not just a win for the students involved in the program; it is also a win for the departments, students and researchers who serve as hosts and mentors for Young Dawg participants.

With teaching, serving and research flowing from student to researcher and between mentors and students, the Young Dawgs Program succeeds in fulfilling the university’s three-part mission of teaching, research and service and is an increasingly vital thread in the tapestry of the future of the university.