Why supporting teenage scientists and inventors can help change the world

One teenage scientist and inventor may be revolutionizing cancer detection.

Good ideas happen often, great ideas happen less frequently and revolutionizing ideas rarely happen in biology class. However, that is what happened to 16-year-old high school student Jack Andraka. Jack’s family had been affected by cancer which partially fueled his ambition to find a better method to diagnose cancer in its early stages. It was his biology class that sparked an idea that may transform how we diagnose diseases like cancer. Michigan State University Extension encourages you to view a short video about Jack and learn about his story and brilliant idea. Jack’s story is inspiring and his idea is exciting and hopeful, but the part of his story that I would like to focus on is how an idea planted in biology class was supported, encouraged and nurtured. This allowed Jack’s idea to grow and reach its current position into something that may revolutionize disease detection as we know it. It is that part of the story where ideas, particularly those of youth, are often dented and lost.

Youth and their ideas need caretakers. Those caretakers can be in the form of parents, teachers, mentors, coaches and volunteers. Essentially adults that care enough to encourage, inspire, nurture, and even come along side young people to listen, guide and from time to time nurture an idea. Caring adults have a significant impact on young people. We can discourage or encourage them. Many times ideas may not be taken seriously or dreams scoffed at. Fortunately for us, Jack had caring adults who supported him and a professor willing to listen and take a chance on a teenager’s idea. We can each make a difference in the lives of young people. The young people in our lives will come up with great ideas, maybe even revolutionizing ideas. They just need someone to listen and support them.

If you are interested in working with young people, visit the MSU Extension, 4-H Youth Development website and learn about opportunities to volunteer through 4-H. Thank you to all the volunteers who are inspiring and encouraging all of our young scientists and inventors.

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