By Mary Petiet
“A mentor empowers a person to see a possible future, and believe it can be obtained.”
– Shawn Hitchcock
Engineering, IT, networking, Cybersecurity, computer science, chemistry, biology, environmental science, and technology. These are some of the fields encompassed by the Cape Cod Community College’s recently piloted STEM mentoring program. The program matches 4C’s students to mentors in the sciences and is currently seeking to expand based upon last year’s success.
Mentors and students alike benefit from the program, which seeks to promote knowledge and opportunities for the next generation of scientists. “The STEM mentorship program is based on the successful mentoring program at Massbay Community College in Wellesley, which has found that students who participated in STEM mentoring have a significantly higher rate toward completing their studies than students who were not in the program,” said Bridget Burger, Director of the Cape Cod Regional STEM Network and STEM Starter Academy at Cape Cod Community College.
The program matches students to mentors with similar interests and includes training and orientation for mentors according to research-based best practices in STEM mentoring. Once matched, a mentor is expected to spend an hour a month engaging with the mentee to help with goal setting, careers exploration, and current issues in their STEM field.
Rodrigo Passos is the founder and developer of Dative // Creative Web Solutions in Osterville. As a mentor, he emphasized the powerful connection that can grow between mentor and mentee as information is exchanged. "In a world where seemingly every piece of information can be Googled, there is still some knowledge that can only be gained through experience and in person, face to face sharing, where both mentor/mentee can learn from each other,” Passos said.
Cape native and STEM mentee Caitlin Marotta is in her second year at 4C's in the Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing degree program. She plans to transfer to a 4-year school to continue her studies with the ultimate goal of working in the field of Aerospace Engineering. She has been involved in the STEM Network at her school since she began and says it has provided her many unique opportunities. “My experience in the mentorship program helped me better understand what it is to be a professional in an engineering field. My mentor was able to help me understand what to expect in the field, what employers are looking for in a candidate, how to network and make connections, how to investigate opportunities, schools, and internships, and what it's like to be working as an engineer,” she said.
On the heels of last year’s success, the mentorship program is growing through an additional collaboration. “This year we are excited to enact a partnership with the Cape Cod Technology Council, which has offered to sponsor this program. Students will be sponsored to attend the first Friday Cape Cod Council Speakers Series with their mentor,” Burger said.
This partnership within the mentorship program works to ensure future locally based employees for the Cape’s growing scientific industries. “The Cape Cod region has a surprising number of technology and science organizations, all of whom need a prepared and educated workforce. The Cape Cod Technology Council helps connect students in the Cape Cod Community College’s STEM mentoring program with our members who are committed to developing this workforce for the future,” said Bert Jackson, Chief Executive Officer Cape Cod Technology Council, Inc.
Strong mentorship can be found behind most success stories, and the Cape Cod Regional STEM Network seeks mentors now to be a part of the program’s continued success. Mentorship can build two careers: that of the mentee learning how to work as a scientist, and that of the mentor, elaborating upon career skills. "Serving as a mentor in the 4C’s STEM program was a very rewarding experience. STEM fields, understandably, value and prioritize technical skills. Mentorship is an excellent opportunity to develop soft skills and interpersonal relationships that are integral to a successful career," said Chris O’Brien, also of Dative // Creative Web Solutions.
In 2021 the program went virtual, using a new platform that makes it easy for mentor and mentee to sign up and connect. Mentors of any age in any of the STEM fields are encouraged to sign up. “This is a great way to help students and a great way to give back,” Burger said. Go to: https://capecod.firsthand.co and click on "Give Advice".
Contact Bridget Burger, Director, Cape Cod Regional STEM Network for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Mary Petiet