Active US2020 STEM mentors overwhelmingly cite initially hearing about their volunteer opportunity from a friend or colleague - second only to hearing about it from their employer. If we are going to bring STEM mentoring to the scale needed to address our country’s STEM education challenge, we need to treat every volunteer not just as an educator, mentor and coach for youth, but also as a powerful promoter and recruiter for our work. It is pretty simple: if volunteers have a great experience volunteering with your organization, they will encourage their friends and colleagues to participate as well.
The Excellence in Volunteer Experience award will recognize education partners that provide high-quality, well-supported engagements for their volunteers during a spring semester or academic year STEM mentoring program.
Recruiting volunteers can be difficult. It can be even more difficult to recruit volunteers with specialized skillsets. Through the US2020 mentor-matching platform, we have seen volunteer opportunities that require content expertise in everything from coding to urban gardening. In order to tap into the wide spectrum of passions and talents STEM professionals can provide young people access to, youth-serving organizations collaborate with companies, professional associations and institutions of higher education to recruit dedicated and inspiring mentors.
Youth-serving organizations can nominate their top volunteer-providing partners for the Excellence in Volunteer Mobilization STEM Mentoring Award. We are particularly looking for examples of effective strategies for volunteer mobilization that can be shared with the wider field.
Leadership from public agencies and officials is critical to the growth of STEM mentoring efforts, from raising awareness about STEM mentoring to convening key stakeholders to tapping the mentoring talents of experienced government employees. When the public sector partners with the corporations employing large STEM workforces or the nonprofits serving youth, STEM mentoring magic can happen. Connecting students with talented volunteers who can provide compelling, real-world STEM learning opportunities requires a collaborative, cross-sectoral approach. This award category seeks to define what works, how it works and begin to develop blueprints for effective, cross-sectoral partnerships that break down barriers for students and communities.
It’s been said that “real science takes real stuff.” While STEM-related concepts can be taught through more traditional pedagogical approaches, such as lectures and books, when children are given exposure to the same concepts through hands-on learning, they develop a deeper, more personal connection to the material, while becoming independent thinkers. Studies have shown that hands-on learning is the most popular type of learning with students as well. So, in summary, hands-on STEM learning is a win-win approach for everyone involved.
The Most Innovative Hands-on Project award will be presented to organizations that are developing creative, hands-on curriculum that is judged to be innovative, scalable, and community-focused, with the potential to spark student interest and skill building in STEM. A panel of expert judges -- public, private, and education leaders connected to the STEM mentoring movement -- will review and score the submitted projects.
The STEM mentoring field is rapidly expanding. There are many valid approaches to increasing student interest and academic engagement in STEM. Questions remain around what specific indicators of student impact are most important to measure, and which program models are most effective in getting us to our long-term goal of a seeing a STEM workforce that represents the diversity of our country. In order to answer these critical questions as a field, we need to have sophisticated performance measurement and management systems in place to track student progress, outcomes, and, ultimately, impact.
This new SMA category seeks to learn more about our partners’ strategies and underlying logic for tracking specific student impact indicators. We know this work is resource intensive. We are looking for best practices across a range of organizational size and financial resources. Successful applicants will be organizations that are leading the field in their emphasis on and commitment to tracking student impact.
Today’s students are tomorrow’s employees and innovators. Students need to see how studying science and engineering translates into a career; they need strong role models and mentors to share their pathways to success."
-Blair Blackwell, Manager of Education and Corporate Programs, Chevron (Founding sponsor of the STEM Mentoring Awards)
Our commitment to US2020 goes beyond engaging employee mentors, and is focused on building a national technology infrastructure and sustainable ecosystem for mentoring. Therefore we take great pride in being a founding sponsor of the US2020 STEM Mentoring Awards.”
-Surya Kant, President of North America, UK and Europe, Tata Consultancy Services (Founding sponsor of the STEM Mentoring Awards)
We at IBM are honored with this national recognition of the Baton Rouge Center and our corporate culture of technology innovation and volunteerism. IBM's mission in Baton Rouge is to serve our clients with an educated, dynamic and skilled workforce."
-Christine Alford, General Manager of the IBM Service Center in Baton Rouge
I’m incredibly pleased with the level of our employee participation and dedication to student mentorship. Being recognized for our involvement is an honor, but the real reward is the service we have been able to provide. Volunteering has been as gratifying for the mentors from the Bank as it was for the kids involved."
-David Becker, President and CEO, First Internet Bank
This award affirms FirstHand’s unique approach and the Science Center’s commitment to career-focused STEAM Mentoring. We believe that FirstHand is creating something special at the Science Center, as we continue to open doors for the minds of tomorrow.“
-David Clayton, Firsthand Director