UNION COUNTY, NJ — An accomplished group of Union County Vocational-Technical high school students were recognized at Thursday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting during which the board approved $12 million in grant applications in support of the school.

Students from across the county studying subjects as diverse as allied health professions, information technology, theater, agriculture, criminal justice, masonry and more joined the virtual meeting as Superintendent Gwen Ryan read their accolades.

Caleb Prempeh, of Elizabeth, an eleventh-grader at the Academy for Allied Health Sciences, was recognized for participating in a six-week internship with the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine where participants met with healthcare professionals to discuss health disparities, social determinants of health and other topics. His capstone project focused on opioid abuse prevention in the African American community.

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Two students from Westfield were commended. Olivia Runke, a junior and vocal performer at the Academy for Performing Arts, organized the school’s first-ever virtual Broadway Night. Natalie Lee, a Union County Magnet High School senior, was recently chosen as a National Technical Student Association member of the month in January based on her submission to a mini competition on geospatial technology.

“Our schools continue to be an exceptional place to learn, and are among the top schools in the state and the nation, and are consistently ranked among the top schools in publications like nj.com, Newsweek, and US News and World Report,” Ryan said.

Ryan said the vocational school district appreciates the commissioners’ support while applying for two grants through the state’s Securing our Children's Future Bond Act program. A grant of $7.1 million would support the Peterson Farm Sustainable Science Academy project, and a $5.3 million grant would support a Global Logistics and Supply Chain project.

“There is an incredible vision to create a sustainable science and agricultural program that allows us to use the Peterson Farm park to give students a hands-on learning experience in agricultural farming,” Ryan said. Students in the program will be able to focus on urban and organic farming, food science and farm-to-table production. 

The global logistics and supply chain program would involve a partnership with Union County College to give students industry credentials before graduation in a field that is “growing by leaps and bounds, especially during the pandemic,” said Ryan. She said the program would create a pipeline to post-secondary learning and the workforce.

 “Our successes are a direct result of the support that we received from the Union County Board of County Commissioners,” Ryan said. 

The Vocational-Technical Schools presentation was timely since February is Career and Technical Education Month and Future Farmers of America (FFA) Week begins on Saturday.