Thirty-three IBMers from across the United States engaged in a career exploration project, mentoring over 240 students in Washington, California, Arizona, Georgia, Washington D.C. and Colorado during the 2012 spring semester. These middle school students were a part of STEMester of Service, an in-school program from Youth Service America (YSA). YSA is a global not-for-profit that has been around for 26 years and is focused on improving communities by increasing the number of young people serving in substantive roles in service, learning, leadership and achievement. The STEMester of Service program is designed to combine service learning, leadership, math and technology in a meaningful way that engages students in their local community and school.
Youth Service America and IBM collaborate with MentorPlace for career readiness & exploration.
IBMers utilized IBM’s MentorPlace e-mentor program and were able to volunteer with groups of students remotely, engaging in discussion that was focused on supporting their service learning project. The volunteers guide them through a series of thoughts and ideas to grow their perspective on potential careers and to show them how their YSA experience is shaping skills they can apply in life and in future career ideas.
"We designed this program to engage the students in team discussion and to expand their idea of what a career in technology can look like by introducing them to many different IBMers and guiding exploration into the importance of math, science and how technology is used every day in making a positive difference in the world," stated Linda Wilson Bauer, Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs Manager and e-mentor.
By working with MentorPlace, IBM employees, who normally are unable to volunteer due to work schedules, were able to engage with many students. The positive impact this had on all was evident as students and e-mentors discussed how they use math every day, how their job is making a difference in the world and, most importantly, why that matters to them. Students in the YSA STEMester of Service program worked on local projects near their school including watershed restoration and research in Washington, cultivation and research of rare abalone in California, and engaging with local city leadership related to a new coal mining project in Colorado.
Travis Garwick, a teacher at Warner Middle School in Westminster, California, noted, "It was actually nice to see how students interact with adults who are professional engineers. The interaction forced students to do reflection and led them to cognitively think, ‘What did I learn? Why are we doing this? How are we applying what we learned to this project?’ Anytime you ask students to explain things and become the teachers, it is valuable."
IBM is working with YSA to continue this program next year and grow other ways to collaborate with this progressive not-for-profit organization.