“I was lucky to have grown up exposed to computers from an early age,” explains JerseySTEM volunteer Sabrina Whiteman. “I had a father who was endlessly curious and he passed that curiosity to me.”
Acknowledging early exposure to computer science as one source of motivation, Sabrina has forged a career in information technology (IT) – working at companies like MassMutual Financial Group and the American Stock Exchange – and currently serves as senior administrator in the Computer Science Department at Yale University. As a volunteer with our team, she outlined the parameters of our Corporate Mentorship Program screening and matching process – a valuable operational function at the core of what JerseySTEM works to do.
“I love the idea of an organization that exposes children to STEM but also connects university students to participants.”
Says Sabrina: “It was important for me to provide my insight and experience so that JerseySTEM was successful in implementing the (mentoring) program with measurable and trackable goals.”
The JerseySTEM Corporate Mentorship Program pairs college students who are aspiring to STEM careers with STEM career employees (mentors) from socially responsible companies like Microsoft, Google, Verizon and others. The mentors guide the students on job search, job interview and workplace survival basics. In turn, these college students also mentor middle school students and / or teach our after-school programs. (Way to pay it forward!)
The program couldn’t have come too soon, according to Sabrina: “I believe school boards and leaders are woefully uninformed (about) the importance of educating our youth for a future where STEM impacts (the) fabric of our lives. Even with the free tools that are available…schools won’t have the capacity to use them in the classroom,” she posits, pointing to understaffing due to budget cuts as one reason STEM education levels vary from school to school.
Pairing a young professional mentor with a college student has been beneficial for both the mentors and the mentees. It helps each person connect STEM concepts to parts of everyday life; and both participants receive the social benefit of interacting with each other. When supported by a corporate sponsor, employees also take pride in working to further their company’s equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) agenda. Additionally, the mentees pass along what they’ve learned in our STEM youth programs.
“This programming should stand as a model for others across the nation,” Sabrina says. “I foresee (JerseySTEM) expanding and becoming a historically impactful organization that will…grow and serve additional communities in New Jersey.”
Sabrina hopes that students, mentors and instructors benefiting from our program will go on to have diverse and rewarding STEM careers. She also hopes many will, in turn, donate their time to our organization as volunteers.
“Without the right support, our children will fall behind those of other nations,” Sabrina says.
Volunteers like Sabrina and the companies that sponsor our mentors make bridging the STEM enrichment gap in New Jersey possible.