A mentor is generally defined as "a trusted counselor or guide," but it is often noted that the term's origins come from Mentor, whom Odysseus entrusted with the education of his son when he left for the Trojan War. So a mentor has come to represent a teacher who shares valuable knowledge and experience and helps guide a student along the pathway of life.
According to the organization MENTOR, millions of people are increasingly willing to do just that. Its poll, "Mentoring in America 2005: A Snapshot of the Current State of Mentoring," found that 44 million adults are willing to serve as mentors, and the number of young people involved in one-to-one mentoring relationships has increased nearly 20 percent since MENTOR's 2002 survey.
Career and technical education has many examples of successful mentoring programs, and among them is the High Tech Girls Society (HTGS). The program was started in the 2003-2004 school year in order to increase the representation and success of women in nontraditional career fields. It provides girls with the opportunity to participate in activities with business and postsecondary partners that support nontraditional careers for women. It also provides girls the opportunity to perform community service and links them with SkillsUSA.
Teacher Gregory Hendricks was instrumental in creating HTGS and was recognized with the MetLife Foundation Ambassadors in Education Award for his work in building the valuable relationships between his school, South High School, and the Minneapolis community. HTGS actually serves girls at six of the area's high schools, with Hendricks serving as project manager.
LEADING THE WAY FOR GIRLS
Four years ago, Hendricks helped implement the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) program in the Minneapolis school district. When the district sent its documentation to PLTW at the end of the year, it was determined that the number of females enrolled was about 20 to 25 percent as compared to the national average of 10 to 12 percent. With hopes of continuing or even expanding their recruitment efforts, Hendricks and Wendie Palazzo, the grants director for all Minneapolis public schools career and technical education programs, applied for and received a $10,000 state grant that supports women in nontraditional careers.
"We decided we would take five girls from each of the six high schools and groom them," says Hendricks. Most of the schools are PLTW sites, but one was selected because it has a program certified by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation.
Hendricks drew on his many years of teaching as well as his personal experience (he has six sisters, a wife and two daughters) in creating a situation designed to interest as many girls as possible in attending.
"We closed the machine tool program shop to guys for the afternoon and had brown-bag lunches," he explains.
They involved the girls in learning activities as well, but the most important thing they did was have women come to speak to the female students. Among them were a business partner who owns a manufacturing company and an instructor from a local community and technical college. The effort paid off.
"Our machine shop classes are now 20 to 40 percent female," notes Hendricks.
With a larger than average cadre of females in the PLTW pre-engineering program and in their other career and technical education programs, Hendricks says, it seemed like a natural thing to do would be to engage the girls in out-of-school activities with business and postsecondary education partners.
"They were able to meet, talk with and interact with other successful women in areas that they themselves were already enrolled in, such as automotive and engineering programs," Hendricks explains.
Postsecondary institutions involved include the University of Minnesota, University of St. Thomas, and the University of St. …