STEM Role Models, Key in Project Exploration Programs

A key Project Exploration (PE) principle is to provide our students with mentors and role models that will be positive influences on their education and personal goals. PE does this through training and development of our STEM Facilitators. Ensuring that they work to provide engaging and interesting STEM activities for our students! Not only is it important for our Facilitators to be engaging, we also need them to connect with our students.  Establishing connections with our students keeps them connected to programs!

Uzziel Fernandez Building His Skills as a STEM Facilitator

At our Explore Engineering program, our STEM Facilitator Uzziel Fernandez has tried to do just that with his students at Casa Hidalgo in the Back of the Yards neighborhood! Not only is Uzziel a trained STEM Facilitator, but he has also been in a PE Ten80 program before!  As we spoke to one of Uzziel’s students in the Explore Engineering program, Jasmine, a junior at Ombudsman, it became more apparent of the positive impact that being in our program and having an instructor can have on the youth we work with.

Meet Jasmine, an Explore Engineering Participant Building Her Skills!

Jasmine joined our Explore Engineering, Student Racing Challenge for the first time this semester after hearing about it through a family member. She shared, “I heard it was a good program for high school students because it’s hard to find a real job, it sounded like an exciting opportunity that I wanted to try.” Being a student who enjoys doing hands-on things and robotics club at her school, I think Jasmine really found the right program!  The students have been working on the Student Racing Challenge remote control cars and learning more about working with the different parts of the car.  Jasmine said that her favorite part has been, “Taking the car apart and replacing it with other parts.  I want to do that again because it was fun and interesting, it makes me think about a puzzle – taking the car apart and putting it back together. I like the critical thinking about figuring out which part goes where.”  During all this, Jasmine said that her instructor, Uzziel, was with them every step of the way and was a positive influence. “Uzziel is very positive and very intelligent.  He’s not the type of person to just say ‘do it’ and not help you.  He takes things step-by-step and he helps you through the activities.  He shows us how to do something and then allows us to try on our own.  He doesn’t rush us and he stays positive,” Jasmine said.

Not only has Jasmine learned a lot from Uzziel about engineering and how to use mechanics for their cars, but she told us that she has also seen a change in her confidence and communication skills. Jasmine gave us an example about a situation that had just happened the day before her interview, “Uzziel encourages me to stand in front of my peers and just express myself.  Like yesterday, we were talking about what is your favorite place and why and I got excited to share my experience and I found myself just talking about how amazing it was and how fun it is and I was giving them examples about the rides, and it just became easier to express myself.”  She also said that she now feels more confident about joining groups where she doesn’t know a lot of people and breaking out of her shell to become more outgoing.  As her career goals are to be a wedding planner, she sees these improvements has highly beneficial to her career path and gaining this skills will make her a better candidate for jobs when it comes to her career.

Jasmine told PE that Uzziel’s way of teaching and the Student Racing Challenge curriculum will keep her coming back to our program in the Spring, and possibly the summer if her schedule allows! She said, “I look forward to using the cars more because it’s really fun.  I’ve never really done something like this before so it’s kind of cool to try this and meet new people.  But it’s also fun to try something that I’ve never seen or done before.”

 

We look forward to sharing more about Jasmine’s journey and all the exciting things happening in our Explore Engineering program next Spring! Keep a lookout!

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