INDIANAPOLIS – Project Lead The Way (PLTW), the nation’s leading provider of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs, announced a new partnership with US2020 to provide high-quality mentoring experiences for PLTW students by connecting them with industry professionals. US2020 is an organization formed through a partnership with the White House, leading education non-profits and corporate STEM leaders with a goal of matching students and 1 million STEM mentors annually by 2020. This would give every student, especially girls and underrepresented minority students, the opportunity to experience moments of discovery and pursue careers in STEM fields.
"We are excited to be working with Project Lead The Way to source STEM professionals and support educators' classroom work across the country,” said Eric Schwarz, executive chairman of US2020. “In Project Lead The Way, we see a partner with a tremendous track record in preparing educators to lead world-class, STEM-based curricula in schools nationwide. We have seen that educators are hungry for ways to bring their students' learning to life and are hopeful that our partnership will do just that for youth across the country."
Mentoring allows professionals to share technical expertise and help students develop skills such as persistence, project management and team building, and helps them learn to accept encouragement and criticism. However, the most important benefit to effective mentoring is that it allows students to picture themselves in their mentor’s profession – often the first time they’ve felt that a particular career was possible or attainable. Mentorship also has extraordinary value for the mentors. Besides the clear satisfaction of helping young people find their way, mentors are given a structured way to give back to their schools and communities that ultimately leaves them more vested in those communities and their employer.
“Project Lead The Way believes that engaging STEM professionals in PLTW classrooms is one of the best ways for us to serve our students and to emphasize the importance and appeal of STEM career opportunities,” said PLTW President and CEO Dr. Vince Bertram. “PLTW is pleased to be partnering with US2020 to offer a structured mentoring program that will prepare mentors and teachers for a meaningful experience and provide value and impact for the mentors, their companies, communities and America’s students.”
PLTW’s partnership with US2020 started as a pilot program in early 2014, with two PLTW programs in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, area participating. PLTW instructor Cathy Zurawski oversaw the mentoring program in her PLTW Engineering program at Pius XI and believes the partnership has the power to greatly impact students.
“Students don’t necessarily know what engineering is or what engineers do. They just don’t know what fields are out there,” Zurawski says. “Students in our area mostly know about mechanical engineering and electrical engineering, but there are so many different and up-and-coming fields, and students don’t have a clear idea of what engineers do on a day-to-day basis. Mentoring gives students an opportunity to gain perspective and talk with real engineers and hear their opinions.”
Zurawski will engage with more mentors next year through the PLTW mentoring partnership, having STEM professionals visit weekly to assist her Principles of Engineering students when they work on designing, building and programming robotic systems in the controls unit.
“[The mentors will] work with the kids on their projects, but more importantly, help them think long-term, look at the big picture, plan out their project, and help them when they run into logistical issues.”
This fall, PLTW will expand its mentoring program, in partnership with US2020, by working with organizations and mentors in US2020’s major partner cities. PLTW’s mentoring program will include specific training for the mentors before they enter the classroom. Positive mentoring experiences include mentors who are prepared, comfortable and have established and intentional plans for interacting with students. PLTW’s mentor training will include basic content knowledge specific to the unit of instruction in which the mentor will be participating, as well as best practices for interacting with student teams. After completing training, mentors will partner with local PLTW classrooms to provide students with real-world examples and insights that help make their activities and projects even more relevant to the world around them.
About PLTW Project Lead The Way (PLTW) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and the nation’s leading provider of STEM programs. PLTW’s world-class, activity-, project-, and problem-based curriculum and high-quality teacher professional development model, combined with an engaged network of educators and corporate partners, help students develop the skills needed to succeed in our global economy. More than 5,000 elementary, middle and high schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia are currently offering PLTW courses to their students. For more information, visit www.pltw.org.