The National Anthem played quietly in the background as a light shone upon the American Flag, swaying gracefully in the air. Suddenly, an announcement, “Introducing Barack Obama, President of the United States of America” rang through the crowd. A thunderous applause broke the stillness as the crowd jumped eagerly to their feet to greet the POTUS.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a small movement, and then the curtain opened up to reveal none other than Mr. President himself. My face broke out into a huge smile as I began bouncing in excitement of seeing the President in real life!! His face shone brilliantly as he walked in, waving to greet the room. Next thing you know, he was near walking past me. “It’s now or never,” I told myself as I extended my hand in an attempt to catch his. One second later, a firm grasp met my hand. “Glad to meet you,” said President Obama. And then, I fainted.
Just kidding. That actually only happened in my dreams. LOL!
Although I didn’t get to meet President Barack Obama, at the US2020 STEM Mentoring Symposium I did have the chance to hear from and meet some outstanding individuals in the STEM mentoring space. US2020 is an organization launched by the White House in 2013 to change the trajectory of STEM education in America by dramatically scaling the number of STEM professionals engaged in high-quality STEM mentoring with youth. With sponsors such as Tata Consultancy Services and Chevron, 150 academics, government officials, nonprofit leaders, and corporate sponsors were brought together from around the nation to discuss topics pertinent to increasing the diversity of the next generation of STEM professionals. As you may imagine, this symposium’s unique focus on mentoring as a relevant strategy was right up our ally!
We were greeted with a warm welcome from Kumar Garg, Assistant Director of Learning and Innovation in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Then, we were joined by Megan Smith, the Chef Technology Officer of the United States! Megan was extremely down to earth, and reminded us that “the Internet is just us, connecting,” that “we aren’t verticals, the universe doesn’t separate subjects,” and that our role is to “instill deep confidence” into the youth of tomorrow.
We were then briefed by government officials from the OSTP— Ruthe Farmer, Senior Advisor for Tech Inclusion, Andrew Coy, Senior Advisor for Making, and Quincy Brown, Senior Policy Advisor, on the various workshops they would be leading in the afternoon, which ranged from CS for All to a Nation of Makers.
The first half of the day was dedicated to panel discussion from individuals involved in STEM mentoring at various levels. For instance, the “Institutionalizing STEM Mentoring: Policy and Practice” panel discussion focused on how programs are being implemented at high levels of the government, academic institutions, and nonprofit organizations. The afternoon panel, “Lessons from the STEM Mentoring Field” had a focus on practical knowledge that could enhance current programs from the perspective of program structures, training, and funding. Representatives from several organizations, including The National Girls Collaborative, Tata Consultancy Services, Chevron, Genentech, FIRST Robotics, and SCOPE were there to lend their insights.
A highlight of the day was the awarding of the 2016 STEM Mentoring Awards (SMAs). Congratulations to all!!
Left to right: Surya Kant (Tata Consultancy Services), Brigitte Griswold (The Nature Conservancy), Jessica McAtamney (Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences), Ellen Sandberg (CH2M), Eileen Yang (Genentech), Rebecca Lucore (Covestro), Grace Chung (Yahoo), Marie Hopper (FIRST North Carolina), Katherine Wilcox (EnCorps STEM Teachers Program), Nick Hutchinson (US2020), and Blair Blackwell (Chevron).
Lunch included the most delicious White House cupcakes, stamped with the Presidential seal! Don't tell anyone that I ate two... 😋
The second half of the day consisted of breakout sessions to further discuss the topics brought up during the panel sessions. In the “Nation of Makers” breakout session, the conversation focused on the importance of having maker spaces for students to explore STEM hands-on, as well as how-to’s related to finding or getting such spaces started. The “Sustaining a Focus on Diversity and Equity” session highlighted the work organizations are doing in the field to engage underrepresented students, as well as emphasized the importance of girl and/or ethnic minority-focused programming.
The US2020 STEM Mentoring Symposium was an excellent opportunity to understand national imperatives around STEM mentoring, as well as offer insight to work that can be done to further our collective mission. The symposium was also a great opportunity to see old friends, such as Dr. Mary Fernandez of MentorNet (pictured below), as well as make new connections to potentially further the reach of ManyMentors’ work.
Thank you to US2020 and the OSTP for coordinating this insightful event!
Mary Fernandez, MentorNet President, and Keshia Ashe,