DARTMOUTH MANYMENTORS is founded
Hannah, Armin, and a handful of first year undergrads at Dartmouth College reflect on the difficulties of exploring STEM as high school students in rural/underrepresented communities. Excited to be at such an energizing institution, they found Dartmouth ManyMentors in hopes of sharing this excitement and STEM passion with the surrounding community (Many of the most underserved school districts in the country are located within an hour from the Dartmouth campus).
Their goal? To make STEM and college opportunities more visible and achievable for underrepresented k-12 students in rural VT and NH.
DARTMOUTH MANYMENTORS (FINALLY) TAKES OFF
After struggling to get support and recognition for the service group from the UG offices through a chunk of 2018, Hannah and Armin partner with graduate students (including Deb!) in the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies at Dartmouth.
With their help and support, we:
Organize virtual science conversations with Mascoma High School students in Canaan, NH
Run in person mentoring events with Lebanon High School and the New Hampshire Academy of Sciences summer program
Host lots of fun interactive STEM booths at local fairs (we might have had as much fun as the kids!)
Put together virtual mentoring programs during the start of the Covid-19 pandemic
And most importantly, we realized that we wanted our mentorship program to help humanize STEM for historically marginalized students, especially those excluded from science opportunities simply due to living far from cities or universities.
ManyMentors GOES FULLY VIRTUAL TO REACH RURAL STUDENTS AND COMMUNITIES
As the pandemic begins, we face many challenges: understanding our rapidly-evolving knowledge of Covid-19, avoiding misinformation (and teaching those we care about how to avoid it too), fighting anti-science sentiment, and adjusting to the challenges of remote learning. It seems like a particularly important time to expand our mentoring program. We launch a penpal program between mentors and mentees in hopes of providing an engaging supplement to students stuck taking online classes and to foster relationships during such a difficult and isolating time.
VIRTUAL STEM MENTORING PILOT PROGRAM BEGINS
As the pandemic continues, our team reflects on the benefits of virtual mentoring: not only is it clearly the safer option during a pandemic, it is much easier logistically and allows us to reach rural students that are missed by in-person programs. In an effort to modernize ManyMentors and improve STEM outreach during the Covid-19 pandemic, we start a pilot program to see if virtual mentoring via the Slack communication app can help us bring STEM experiences to students in rural areas.
We start by working with mentees at Hannah's former high school in rural Nevada- three hours by car to the nearest college or university with active research. Around 20 high school students ask to participate in the program, which occurs in three stages.
1. Mentors and mentees gather on gather.town where each mentors talks briefly about their personal and scientific background.
2. Mentees submit a form with their top mentoring choices. Hannah matches students and mentees for three sets of 1 week rotations, during which they communicate through Slack with three different mentors.
3. At the end of rotations, mentees choose a mentor. Each week from February to June, mentors and mentees talk asynchronously about weekly STEM topics.
We learn pretty quickly that while some students prefer talking asynchronously via chat, most would much rather talk in real time, face to face. We keep the Slack messaging going but also hold a number of gather.town meetings during the mentees' lunch period where mentors and mentees can interact with Hannah and their teacher, Thomas present. Both mentors and mentees especially enjoy a series of Science Panels where mentors in a particular area of study answer questions that mentees have about science and their journeys in STEM.
MANYMENTORS PREPARES FOR PILOT 2.0- THIS TIME THE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS GET CLASS CREDIT!
The verdict is in- our pilot program was a hit. So many mentees (and even just students who happened to be in Thomas' classroom during gather.town events) expressed interest that Thomas is able to create an entire science class that mentees can take for credit. Over 20 students go to school an hour early (at 6:55 am!!) to participate in the program, during which they talk with mentors in gather.town, work on science fair projects, and explore science topics they might want to pursue in college. Deb, a current mentor in the program, joins our officer team.
symbiotic stem IS FOUNDED
With the direction of our mentoring program shifting to be fully virtual, Hannah, Deb, and Armin found a new 501(c)3 organization, Symbiotic STEM.
symbiotic stem LAUNCHES ITS FIRST MENTORING PROGRAM
Symbiotic STEM launches its first mentoring program- another pilot with Thomas and his students in Nevada. This year, we provide Thomas and his students with a list of mentors with various personal backgrounds and scientific interests. Thomas then runs and organizes a number of Google Meets events for mentees to rotate through different breakout rooms to talk with mentors. After everyone has a chance to meet, he matches mentors and mentees and oversees their continuing conversations. We hope that this format will help mentors and mentees form more personal connections to address important questions about going to college and studying science no matter ones' personal background.