January 30, 2013
Mentors Can Be Keys to Achievement
January is National Mentoring Month—a time to acknowledge the importance of mentoring and to thank those who share their skills and experience with others. Mentors play a key role in the future of youth and in the career success of countless professionals. While many staff might serve as mentors in their personal time, the APL workplace also provides volunteer opportunities. The Laboratory has mentor programs that pair staff with local students, as well as efforts that allow colleagues to learn from one another. Strong mentors can help youth boost academic achievement and improve their workforce readiness. Mentors work to help them build character and confidence and expand their universe as they navigate pathways to successful adulthood. Two Laboratory programs sponsored by the STEM Program Management Office enable APL staff members to be positive role models and teachers for local students.
Preparing Students for Future Challenges
APL’s High School Mentoring program places qualified students, recommended by their schools, into one-on-one internships with APL staff members who act as mentors for research projects or career experiences based on APL’s work. Students receive academic credits toward graduation or other formal recognition and apply through their school’s Gifted and Talented or Internship coordinator during their junior or senior year.
“Personally and professionally, mentoring gives me the opportunity to inspire young people to pursue careers in science and specifically in space exploration,” says Alice Bowman, of the Space Department, who recently cosponsored a high school student with department colleague Becca Sepan. “When they ask to continue their internship for a second year, like our student did last year, you know that you’ve ignited that interest.”
Mike Kutzer of the Research and Exploratory Development Department is a frequent mentor in APL’s program who makes the most of his time with students exploring bits and pieces of new concepts, continuing work on past projects, and enhancing existing software and hardware tools. “High school kids bring a fantastic level of enthusiasm to this work, which is beneficial both to the Lab and to their resumes,” says Kutzer.
APL’s STEM Corps, recently established by the STEM Office, is a group of dedicated staff who volunteer their time to STEM outreach through activities such as mentoring students, coaching robotics teams, and judging science fairs.
“In order to meet the challenges our nation is facing, we need talented STEM professionals willing to help shape and develop our future STEM workforce,” says Dwight Carr, STEM program manager.
For more information about National Mentoring Month, visit www.SERVE.gov/MENTOR.