The main objective of the MENTORS Project is to stimulate interest in and enhance preparation for careers in science, technology, engineering and health, particularly among underserved and under-represented (URM) students. This we aim to achieve through:
1. School-based and field experiences focusing on career exploration and scientific inquiry for middle and high school students from a variety of backgrounds;
2. Collaboration between biomedical, public health, engineering and educational researchers and classroom teachers on the development of new, evidence-based, student-centered materials and instruction; and
3. Rigorous professional development for K-12 educators.
There is a growing concern about the declining interest in STEM fields among pre-college students. This decline in interest and lack of representation is more pronounced among under-represented minorities (URM). For example, only about 4.9% of current U.S physicians are Hispanics, despite Hispanics making up 16.3% of the total U.S population. Among the factors responsible for this decline is the perception of STEM careers as both unobtainable and inadequately rewarding. To address this, the MENTORS Project will conduct coordinated career and professional development activities for students and teachers, implementing new evidence-based, student-centered modules. All project activities are designed to stimulate interest in and enhance student preparation for STEM careers.
Data from Heiden, E. O., Cornish, D. L., Lutz, G. M., Kemis, M., & Avery, M. (2013). Iowa STEM Monitoring Project: 2012-2013 Summary Report. Cedar Falls, IA: University of NorthernIowa, Center for Social and Behavioral Research
MENTORS Project activities and components are designed to overcome many existing barriers, including lack of understanding about what scientists and engineers do, misperceptions about the requirements and rewards of these careers, reticence on the part of teachers to collaborate with scientists and researchers and a lack of career and professional development opportunities, especially for students and teachers from schools in rural, poor, underserved and minority communities. The Project will use proven, existing infrastructure and successful methodologies but takes them in a new direction, with new and relevant themes and a focus on developing 21st century skills needed for lifetime success. By building educator and student confidence, and providing access to authentic experiences, resources and mentors engaged in S&T careers, the Project will build a STEM career development program that will have a lasting impact on participants.