Returning to Home Plate: High School Outreach in Environmental Education

Dr. Viniece Jennings at Career Day at her high school alma mater. Photo courtesy of U.S. Forest Service.

Earlier this year, Dr. Viniece Jennings was invited to speak to students for Career Day held April 23rd  at Columbia High School in Decatur, Georgia. Jennings is a research scientist with the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station Integrating Human and Natural Systems unit in Athens, Georgia. This opportunity was particularly special to her for a couple of reasons: Earth Day was earlier that week, and Columbia High School is her alma mater. Jennings spoke to four classes and answered a range of questions on her responsibilities with the Forest Service, agency programs, her college experience, international travel and general tips for success.

“It was a delight to return to the place that cultivated my interest in science and prepared me for college,” said Jennings. “When I was in high school, a researcher in environmental justice came for career day. That sealed my interests in pursuing a career in the environmental field.  I felt it was important to come back and sow the same seed, not only to benefit the students but also the environmental community. To return as a young African American professional with a doctorate showed the students that they could achieve their goals too.”

Jennings also connected with a number of science teachers who were given copies of the Forest Service-produced Natural Inquirer magazine. The teachers said that they would like to consult Jennings on enhancing environmental education and general science, technology, engineering, and math interests at the school.

“I also had a candid conversation on leadership and overcoming the fear of failure — emphasizing that it’s a process and all of us experience moments of doubt — but also that we must push forward,” added Jennings. “I am thankful for the opportunity that I was provided through the USDA 1890 Scholars Program and the Forest Service; it was a key part of my success story that I would like to share with other students.”

For more information, email Viniece Jennings at

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