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NJ High School Student Uses STEM Passion to Help Others

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Christopher Murray is working to promote Code to Hope
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Christopher Murray also plays on the varsity soccer team.
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SPARTA, NJ – A Sparta High School student is using his passion for math and science to help others.  Senior Christopher Murray is working to promote Code to Hope to locally. 

The Code to Hope organization that seeks to improve digital literacy and education in Africa has resonated with Murray. He found out about it while at a summer program at Johnson & Johnson.  Code to Hope was founded by Philemon Padnonou of Benin, a software developer at Johnson & Johnson.

Padnonou got his education in the United States, though he arrived with “little to no technical competency,” according to the Code to Hope website.  He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering, realizing the importance of technical literacy for success. 

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Murray’s mother has been at Johnson & Johnson for nearly 40 years allowing him to participate in a number of STEM or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, programs at their global IT headquarters in Raritan. 

“One such great event called the Digital & Analytics Boot Camp for Advanced High School Students this past June,” Murray said. 

The event spanned several days giving a “learning experience into the corporate world,” for students “planning to study STEM related fields and possibly intern at Johnson & Johnson,” with an emphasis on career skills in STEM for “promising future leaders,” according to Murray.  It was at this event that Murray learned of Code to Hope.

The mission of the organization is “to fight poverty by giving future leaders the tools they need to empower their communities,” according to their website.  Accessibility to technology can be directly linked to the household income, according to statistics from the organization. 

Johnson & Johnson is the main sponsor of the organization according to Murray.  He is spreading the word about Code to Hope, hoping to speak with the board of education and others to get some of the computers that are slated to be discarded to be donated instead. 

Additionally, Murray plans to speak with his peers “to see if other students might be able to help.”  Help can come in the form of donated technology as well as funds to purchase computers and help with shipping.  A pledge of time is also valuable with opportunities for people to get involved with “various initiative Code to Hope hosts.”

Being a senior at Sparta High School is not enough for this motivated student. He has also been taking classes at Sussex County College during the summer and  plans to continue through the school year.  After graduation Murray said his plan “without a doubt” is to attend college to pursue a degree in BioMathmatics.    

He is quick to recognize teachers that have had a strong influence on him.  His says his love for math began in middle school and his connection to biology began in high school.

“Derek Hall really supercharged my interest in Math in ninth grade. Then I had Johnessa Sakellaropoulos and Susan Vnenchak,” Murray said. “This coming year, believe it or not, I’m lucky enough to have both Mrs. Sakellaropoulos and Ms. Vnenchak so I have really lucky to have fantastic Math Teachers all through high school.

“I had Thomas DiNunzi for ninth grade Environmental Science, “Murray said.  “He has become kind of a mentor in science.  Last year in AP Biology Kenneth Scognamiglio helped me also to decide that I really wanted biology to be part of my future.  I owe a lot to both of them, as with my math teachers.”

It is not all work for the senior.  He plays varsity soccer and baseball. Murray has started “a small training company called Sports for Kids Training Academy.”  He volunteers with Sparta Recreation to help younger children in his favorite sports. 

“Also, to help pay for my car I work part time at the Rock Island Lake Club,” Murray said.  “Nothing fancy, just a restaurant attendant.”

As for his future beyond Sparta High School, Murray has already applied to Rutgers, his target school as well as Seton Hall, The College of New Jersey, Rowan, Fairleigh Dickenson University and will soon apply to William Paterson.

“BioMathmatics is so flexible, I probably won’t know exactly which job or career I want until after a few years of college,” Murray said.

Murray encourages anyone interested in the programs and initiatives to contact the organization directly.

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