When Rutgers University Center for Environmental Exposures and Disease (CEED) noted a lack of representation of young voices in research discussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Skye Kelty leapt at the chance to highlight young people’s pandemic stories outside of a school setting. Skye is a postdoctoral fellow in the Joint Graduate Group in Pharmacology and Toxicology with expertise in community based participatory research and lung toxicology. She recruited young leaders in the public health and environmental health community from New Jersey to join her for a session featured in the Center’s annual summit “COVID-19, Environmental and Occupational Health and Justice” on September 30, 2020. You can watch the session here.

The young presenters included Liberty Science Center Partners in Science Interns4-H ambassadors, the co-founder of the Newark Water Coalition, the president of the Surfrider Foundation Student Club, the Green Team Youth Leader of Groundwork Elizabeth, and the Program Manager of W.E.B. DuBois Scholars Institute. The inspirational actions of these young speakers during this pandemic were astounding for the audience of 60 including many health researchers and leaders of New Jersey community organizations. The presenters also gave advice to the audience about how to connect with young people for research. Finally, youth priorities for research during the pandemic and the recovery were shared by presenters with the perspective of “New Normal” and “Next Normal”.

Based on this exciting session, Skye is now launching a project to document the diverse pandemic experiences of even more young people in New Jersey and in her home state of California. This project will be open for participation in early 2021 for young people to answer surveys and to submit their creative projects to document their own experiences. Many youth organizations and young researchers in New Jersey are partnering for this research under Skye’s leadership. Keep an eye out for some exciting insights into young lives during the unprecedented pandemic coming up from this project in 2021.