Mentors help District 214 students explore careers and find success

Jasmine Kee, right, works on a project in her College Introduction to Nanotechnology class. Kee signed up for District 214's Mentor Matching Engine and connected with an industry professional to get feedback on a class project. 

Jasmine Kee, right, works on a project in her College Introduction to Nanotechnology class. Kee signed up for District 214's Mentor Matching Engine and connected with an industry professional to get feedback on a class project. 

When it comes to teaching students, working with mentors from outside the classroom can be invaluable. Studies show that high school students who have been mentored are more likely to be engaged in high school overall and to graduate from college or other post-secondary training. 

To encourage this kind of student growth and confidence, High School District 214 has launched a program to connect students with mentors who can help them succeed in high school and beyond.

The Mentor Matching Engine program, which was launched in December, is designed to match students with professionals, alumni, parents and other community members who will work with students in a variety of ways, from in-person meetings to discuss career plans to virtual meetings to assist with school projects.

Wheeling High school senior Brandon Zettek works on a project in his college introduction to nanotechnology class.

Wheeling High school senior Brandon Zettek works on a project in his college introduction to nanotechnology class.

For example, District 214 senior Brandon Zettek connected with a specialist from Engis Corp. in Wheeling to mentor him on his nanotechnology project on the use of nano diamonds in joint replacements.

“It was a great way to talk to him about our project,” Zettek says of their video chats, which took several times a week during the project. “It’s a great way for students to communicate very easily with people that they need to get information from.”

Mike Gordon, president of the Chicago Wolves, has mentored students at Buffalo Grove High School and believes mentoring gives professionals the opportunity to provide their time and talent to a younger generation. Mentoring is great for companies such as the Chicago Wolves that place a high value on giving back to the community, he added.

“This is a great opportunity for students to put on their resume. It's a real working project that employers will look at that I don't know is currently available in other districts,” said Gordon. “We're doing a better job at preparing students for what's next in life."

The Mentor Matching program includes mentoring in all career areas, including STEM, healthcare, legal services, government, marketing and communications and finance.

Mentors can get involved with students in three areas:

·      In-person career support: Mentors who want to meet with students in person can volunteer to speak to students in the classroom about their professional journey, coach entrepreneurship students or host student interns. Mentors can also participate in Career Night events or host field trips to their workplaces.

·      Virtual project and research support: For people who want to invest more time but would have trouble scheduling in-person meetings, mentors can connect virtually with students to discuss project background information, share research resources, offer insight on project designs and provide feedback on final projects.

Carol Bouvier works with a Wheeling High School student. Bouvier signed up her students for District 214's Mentor Matching Engine platform, giving the students the opportunity to connect with industry professionals to explore careers and get feedback on their work.

Carol Bouvier works with a Wheeling High School student. Bouvier signed up her students for District 214's Mentor Matching Engine platform, giving the students the opportunity to connect with industry professionals to explore careers and get feedback on their work.

·      Virtual career support: Professionals who want to help students develop career and post-secondary plans can also meet virtually with students. Mentors can share their insights and experiences in their fields and offer students advice and feedback on college and career ideas.

The District contacts potential mentors within 48 hours of signing up to begin the process of connecting them with students and completing a mentor profile.

 These opportunities offer students experiences and resources they wouldn’t otherwise have. For District 214 student Jasmine Kee, Mentor Matching Engine connected her to a water hydrologist, who supplied background information for a project on reducing the effects of oil on the environment and provided feedback throughout the project and on her final paper.

“It’s a great way to connect with mentors, and it helped a lot with this project,” she says. “I think it’s really a great resource for students.

 To find out more about the program or to sign up, visit www.discover214.org/mentor-students.