#ThankYourMentor – National Mentoring Month: My Science Mentoring Story

Happy New Year and Happy National Mentoring Month. Throughout the month we have seen posts, Tweets and stories about the importance of mentoring. This is why The National Mentoring Partnership (MENTOR) and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health started National Mentoring Month back in 2002. National Mentoring Month focuses national attention on the need for mentors to ensure positive effect in young people. 1 in 3 young people will grow up without a mentor. Mentoring makes a difference, especially for underrepresented students who are interested in STEM fields. When students have science mentors it gives them the opportunity to learn about different science career options and build a positive support system.

Since today is the last event of National Mentoring Month (#ThankYourMentor day) what better time to share how mentoring has made an impact on my science journey. I believe in the impact of mentors and encourage you to mentor someone new. In honor of #ThankYourMentor day I am going to share a few of my mentoring experiences.

As I mentioned in my Mentoring Series, mentoring at all stages is essential for students in the STEM fields, especially underrepresented minority students.  When I was in high school one of my teachers noticed I was good in science and convinced me to get involved with MESA, which is the Maryland Mathematics, Engineering Science Achievement Initiative. Maryland MESA advocates for STEM education and increasing the number of STEM graduates in Maryland. They support students exposure to science through science fairs, mathematics competitions, mentoring, summer programs and much more.  Thank you, Maryland MESA for being an advocate for STEM education.

My hard work and mentoring paid off and I received the Gates Millennium Scholarship. This was a blessing because my parents could not afford to send me to college. This scholarship fully funded my undergraduate education to the school of my choice as well as pay for a portion my graduate education. Thank you, Bill and Melinda Gates and the Gates Millennium Scholars Program for giving me the opportunity go to college and graduate school.

As a STEM undergraduate, I took full advantage of the opportunities offered by the Office of Diversity and had many conversations with Dr. Amy Freeman. I participated in two pre-freshmen diversity programs: Pre-First Year in Science and Engineering (PREF) Program and the Women in Engineering Program Orientation (WEPO). The PREF Program was an academic summer bridge program. WEPO was a three-day interactive orientation for first-year students filled with seminars, workshops and activities to prepare women for a successful career in STEM. These mentoring experiences helped shaped me into the scientist I am today and inspired me to share information to help the next generation of scientists. Thank you, Penn State, PREF, WEPO, Dr. Amy Freeman and all of my mentors.

Fast forward a year or so I realized if I wanted to become a scientist I needed research experience. After exploring my options I came across the Minority Undergraduate Laboratory Research Experience (MURE) Program. This program gives students the opportunity to gain research experience and earn credit or a small stipend. As a MURE student, I gained one-year of research experience and realized that I am more interested in science than engineering. Thank you for the MURE Program, my lab-mates and mentors for showing me the way of the lab as an undergraduate.

Later on, in college and graduate school I learned in with the support of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Special Interest Group and the National GEM Consortium. I took on leadership roles and decided I wanted to include helping the next generation of scientists as part of my mission as a scientist. I continued working on my research, getting involved and eventually I found like-minded people in these organizations. NSBE was like a family and taught me so many things about being a leader. WISE gave me insight on how I could be a voice for African-American women in STEM and that we can break barriers. The GEM Grad Lab showed me that graduate school was for me and despite the challenges, I could do it. And I did it! Thank you NSBE, WISE, GEM, Dr. Huggans and Dr. Tull.

And lastly, I have to thank the science blogging community. I remembered reading The Thesis Whisperer and This Week in Virology and thinking the science and higher education community was missing something. Dr. Inger Mewburn (The Thesis Whisperer) encouraged me to start, Mademoiselle Scientist. When I started I did not know what to expect. I am grateful for the opportunity to share my story and see the science community grow. Thank you, science blogging community, Dr. Michael Johnson (blacksciblog), Dr. Tull, Vanguard STEM, #BLACKandSTEM and Science Mentor for helping create a resourceful science community.

These are just a few of the mentoring experiences that have shaped me as a scientist and STEM professional. My mentors have truly helped me along the process. I’m a ready to try new things and gain some new mentors. I want to learn more things, be a better mentor and better mentee.

Come join me on this journey. Again, I will like to thank all of my mentors!

How have your mentors helped you? Comment and share on your social media with #ThankYourMentor.

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