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Celebrating Mentoring Month with Science and Engineering

Summary: 
January is National Mentoring Month—a time to recognize those who make a personal difference in the lives and futures of young people. In science and engineering fields, this means celebrating those who keep our next generation of innovators engaged and excited about science, technology, engineering, and math while helping them acquire the skills needed for the jobs of the future.

STEM Mentoring Open House

OSTP Director John P. Holdren speaks at the January 18, 2013, Interagency Mentoring and STEM Open House. (Photo credit: USDOT)

January is National Mentoring Month—a time to recognize those who, through their generosity, patience, and commitment, make a personal difference in the lives and futures of young people.

In science and engineering fields, this means celebrating those who keep our next generation of innovators engaged and excited about science, technology, engineering, and math while helping them acquire the skills needed for the jobs of the future.  Studies have shown that—particularly for members of groups underrepresented in science and engineering fields, including  women and some  minorities—having a mentor can be a key determinant of whether a student continues to take math and science courses.

But there are many skilled potential mentors out there who have yet to venture into a school to express their potential.

To close this gap, representatives from nine Federal agencies came together on January 18th, in conjunction with an array of White House-sponsored Inauguration events, to host an interagency Open House on STEM and Mentoring.  At the event, officials from the Departments of Transportation, Labor, Energy, Education, and Agriculture, as well as from the Office of Personnel Management, National Science Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency and Corporation for National and Community Service, met with leaders of STEM mentoring organizations and members of the public. Breakout sessions focused on how to engage students in hands-on learning opportunities across STEM-related fields.

Additionally, we recently joined FIRST and Girls,Inc at the National Mentoring Summit, where we talked with others from across the country about the importance of mobilizing mentors with all levels of technical background to help students engage in hands-on technology and science opportunities. At one point in the meeting, students from a local high school enthusiastically showed off their amazing robotic creation made with the help of mentors—making plain the kind of excitement that the achievements can bring.

For those of you who missed these great events – fear not. The Corporation for National and Community Service this month also issued a “STEM Mentoring Toolkit” that can help you to take the first step towards making a huge difference in the trajectory of a student… and our Nation.

So while January is winding down, we can—with your help—ramp up our efforts to realize the President’s goal of moving our students from the middle to the top of the pack in math and science!

Patricia Falcone is Associate Director for National Security and International Affairs at OSTP.

Lauren Andersen is a Policy Advisor at OSTP.