STEM Valley Mentoring Coalition
The STEM Valley Mentoring Coalition is leading a national movement to develop an effective model for connecting low-income students, students from minority populations, and female students with high-impact mentoring that increases interest in STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Founded by the Da Vinci Science Center in 2014 as the Mentor Allentown Coalition, the partnership includes more than 30 community organizations, corporations, and public school systems.
- The coalition is a bold experiment, one in which anybody can take part. More than 30 diverse organizations have come together with the Da Vinci Science Center to change the educational landscape in the Lehigh Valley area.
- The coalition is working to make it as easy as possible for adults to provide high-impact mentoring to low-income students, students of minority backgrounds, and girls.
- The coalition is one of ten groups leading a national movement to change the way that students are mentored toward careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, as chosen through the US2020 City Competition in 2014.
- The coalition was developed through the US2020 national grand prize grant and by local corporations and foundations, all of whom believe that people like you will be able to make a substantial improvement in the lives of youth.
- The coalition hopes to provide youth with at least ten hours of direct and effective contact with a STEM mentor, typically in a group setting. By enabling extended contact between mentors and students, providing mentorship training, and pursuing rigorous evaluation practices, we will ensure the effectiveness of your contribution and help create a national model for successful STEM mentorship in cities.
Mentoring not only helps young people develop into successful adults, mentoring also can enhance a person’s working skills and deepen their connection with the community.
- Eighty-six percent of Allentown School District children are of low-income. One hour a week of your time can inspire a child to stay in STEM courses and aspire to work in a STEM field. In the Lehigh Valley, entry-level STEM jobs pay almost double that of non-STEM jobs. The impact of sparking passion for STEM in one child can have an enormous impact on an entire family.
- STEM jobs in the Lehigh Valley have an average salary of $68,321 per year in comparison to non-STEM jobs with an average of $37,187, according to a Brookings Institute study.
- Students who receive high-impact mentoring experiences are more likely to stay in school, more likely to achieve proficiency, and more likely to be prepared for post-secondary education and the workforce (Bruce & Bridgeland, 2014). You can help youth realize these goals.
- Mentoring also can be a powerful experience for the mentor by building work his or her skills and connecting him or her to the community.
- Businesses note that employees who volunteer to mentor or teach return to work with enhanced communication, leadership, and teamwork skills (Phillip, 2001).
- Professionals who volunteer report more satisfaction with their jobs and higher loyalty toward their employers (Deloitte, 2013).
- The effects of mentoring are not only personal. As more children grow up to take STEM jobs, positions get filled, income flows into the Lehigh Valley, followed by more businesses and a better economy as a whole. The coalition’s hope is to make youth a part of a regional rejuvenation.
What Kind of Mentoring Is It?
The coalition is dedicated to providing students with in-depth, sustained, STEM skills-based mentoring experiences that are similar to apprenticeships.
- This is not a typical mentoring model. The coalition focuses on providing high-impact STEM mentorship, explained below. Most mentors assist in established programming by providing hands-on support in a program facilitated by an educator who already has a curriculum.
- A mentor’s role includes helping students with STEM-based projects, relating projects to the students’ lives and possibilities, sharing the experiences that led them toward a STEM career, being a role model for students, and showing them a world of possibilities they might not be exposed to otherwise.
- Depending on the program, this kind of mentoring can range from one-to-one interaction to working with up to ten students. The programs themselves are focused on providing high-impact STEM mentoring.
- High-impact STEM mentoring is experiential. Activities including building a solar car, writing code for a mobile app, or making a guitar from scratch allows students to experience the real–world application of STEM subjects and ignites “moments of discovery’ that connect STEM with their futures. Research has shown that one of the strongest attractions of STEM subjects to students is the ability to engage in hands-on activities. Because students interested in STEM are more likely to have participated in hands-on STEM activities, engaging students with activities like these are vital to building curiosity for STEM.
- High-impact STEM mentoring is sustained. Mentors meet with students over a number of weeks, growing relationships and serving as role models for future careers in STEM. The positive benefits of a mentoring relationship continue to grow as the relationship is sustained over a period of time.
- High-impact STEM mentoring Focuses on Underrepresented students. African-American and Hispanic students are much less likely to know someone in a STEM career, to have engaged in hands-on STEM activities, or to have visited a science center museum. All of these experiences are known to be vital links to sparking interest in STEM subjects. While women account for a majority of new bachelor’s and master’s degrees, they account for only 20 percent of new STEM degrees and only hold about 25 percent of STEM jobs.
- High-impact STEM mentoring is measurable. Interest is a strong indicator for those who will pursue a STEM career. More than 75 percent of students who participated in a mentor-led STEM apprenticeship with Citizen Schools reported an interest in STEM subjects. This number is significantly higher than the reported national average of 33 percent.
- High-impact STEM Mentoring is led by STEM company employees. Engagements with employees at a STEM organization allow students to network with successful people in the field and envision pathways for pursuing those careers. A student served by a coaltion partner said it best when they said, “Now that I know what a lab looks like, I can actually make a mental picture of how it would look if I worked inside a laboratory.”
Where and When Does this Mentoring Take Place?
Depending on the program a mentor chooses, mentoring can take place at any time during the week. Based on the many different programs provided by various organizations, a person might mentor indoors or outdoors, during a weekday, or on the weekend. There are opportunities for everybody to mentor.
- Depending on a mentor’s chosen program, mentoring can take place at any time during the week. Based on the many different programs provided by various organizations, a mentor might serve indoors or outdoors, during a weekday, or on the weekend. There are opportunities for everybody to mentor.
- A short list of opportunities includes leading nature hikes and tours at the Lehigh Valley Zoo; assisting an Allentown School District student with his or her science fair project, with the help of an educator; helping Girl Scouts make the world a better place through educational and service projects; assisting instructors during a Da Vinci Science Center outreach program at a school or community center.
- Mentor commitment includes approximately 15-20 hours over a period of three months to one year. This time includes time spent by the mentor sharing their educational backgrounds, skills, interests, and abilities with students.
- Mentors are not expected to lead experiences by themselves. Each program will provide training and support to assist them in mentoring and most of the time will include an educator in the room.
- Mentors must submit and receive clearances to work with youth. These will vary by specific program.
- Mentors must participate in limited surveys and interviews to evaluate satisfaction and effectiveness of their mentor experiences.
Mentor Coalition Information
Contact @DSC: David Smith, Ph.D.
, 484.664.1002, Ext. 111