Buzz Aldrin Middle School and Hackensack Meridian Health Mountainside Collaborate on STEM Skills

On May 11 and 12, Buzz Aldrin Middle School and Hackensack Meridian Health Mountainside Medical Center (formerly called Mountainside Hospital) collaborated for an in-school STEM SKILLS program for 6th, 7th & 8th graders.

Daniel Taylor, the STEM Coordinator for Buzz Aldrin, designed the program with the hospitals’ community health and services team, including Grettel Muscato and Florey Cruz-Cerpa. Their goal was to introduce students to the variety of career options available in a hospital environment, and enhance understanding of the educational paths taken to achieve those professions.

Students heard from Dr. Luigi Baretto (family medicine), Nicole Gengaro (radiology technician), Andrea Cohen (registered nurse and diabetes counselor), Margo Murray (occupational therapist), Dr. Marianne Ramos (pharmacologist), Dr. Marybeth Friel (family medicine), Elena Mills (dietician), Dr. Priya Mehta (internal medicine), and Michele Langfield (clinical social worker).

Alvina Babu was one of the science teachers at the school who took her students around during their science period to hear the various presentations. She observed, “My students learned that working in a hospital is nothing like the way it’s depicted on Grey’s Anatomy! It was vital for them to hear from professionals about the dedication the work requires and the rewards that come after rigorous and focused study.”

Everyone, students and teachers alike, appreciated the honest dialogue. Ms. Babu added, “We heard about the pros of working in medicine, in addition to the very real sacrifices one has to make when choosing this path. Presenters’ personal anecdotes painted a vivid picture for our students. Students learned how doctors, nurses, PT’s, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals work as a team for the well being of the patient.”

Dr. Jill Sack, principal for Buzz Aldrin Middle School, said “We are so proud to collaborate with Mountainside, because it affords our students a unique opportunity to learn first-hand about important careers and innovations in the medical field. We are grateful to the professionals who carved time out of their hectic schedules to engage and inspire our kids.”

The hospital offers workshops and career day programs at schools all the time. Yet this collaboration is particularly poignant. Florey Cruz-Cerpa, Community Health Manager for the hospital, told students, “ BAMS has a special place in our hearts. What’s particularly unique about our partnership is that we have a shared connection. Not only was Buzz Aldrin an alumnus of your school, he was also born at Mountainside Hospital! He is very proud to be born in Montclair. This personal connection makes our partnership everlasting.”

For more information on free programs with Hackensack Meridian Health Mountainside Medical Center, reach out to Florey Cruz-Cerpa, Community Health Manager, at or call 973-429-6895.

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