ECBC workforce supports new mentorship program
Thu-An Kecskes, an engineer with the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, engages in a conversation with Edgewood Middle School mentee Zackery Belhumeur.

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. Aca,!aEURc Looking to make a difference in the lives of local students, nine employees from the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's chemical and biological center supported a new six-week mentoring program that kicked off April 13 at Edgewood Middle School in Harford County, Md.

With a focus on math and English, the A.M. Academic Club is a joint initiative between Harford Community College, Edgewood Middle School and ECBC that encourages government professionals to serve as mentors inspiring the next-generation workforce to discover and work toward their dream jobs.

The Edgewood Chemical Biological Center provided support to the program based on its strong four-year relationship with Edgewood Middle School and Project DREAM Work, the umbrella program for the A.M. Academic Club.

But mentoring also equips professionals with new ideas and perspectives from their mentees. And at the same time, sharing their knowledge and insight with students gives mentors a sense of satisfaction.

"It is a true gift to be a mentor and a great opportunity to learn from students," said Peg Taibi, Edgewood Middle School's student counselor, who benefited from the support, counsel, friendship, reinforcement and constructive example of a mentor when she was young.

"Providing a stable foundation and a good head start in life, this experience steered my career path into its current lane," she added.

Mentor administrators Taibi and Mindy Costanzo-Romero welcomed ECBC professionals in the Edgewood Middle School library and introduced them to the program's procedures, strategies and guidelines ensuring an effective student-mentor relationship. Furthermore, they expressed their deep gratitude for the outstanding commitment of ECBC's participants to their community.

"We are very thankful for ECBC's wonderful response making the time and effort to positively impact our students' lives," Taibi said. "The interaction with you offers our mentees an invaluable experience giving them a good example of how to be successful in their future careers. Maybe, they will even follow in your footsteps."

Middle school is a critical stage for children, because they rely on the guidance and encouragement of role models to identify academic goals on their way through high school and college. The determination to pursue a scientific or technical career path gives them direction in life and can affect the outcome of their future enormously.

"In the meetings with you, students have the chance to build bridges between school and work life," Costanzo-Romero said drawing from her experience as Project DREAM Work program director. "Your personal and professional support will help mentees reach their maximum potential in the core academic areas."

To facilitate the matchmaking process between mentors and mentees, Taibi and Costanzo-Romero suggested the "speed-mentoring" technique allowing ECBC mentors and students to meet, connect and engage in conversations. With this method, the mentor administrators gave program participants the option to voice their partnering preferences, rather than to randomly assign them into groups.

"Exchanging a few words with our future mentees today gave me an impression of their interests and desires, and I think I already found a good match for me," said Thu-An Kecskes, engineer at the Joint Project Manager for Nuclear Biological Chemical Contamination Avoidance.

ECBC's professionals and Edgewood Middle School's sixth- and seventh-graders will reunite Tuesday, April 13 to start their one-on-one mentoring sessions. Mary Doak, ECBC's community and educational outreach manager, plans to enhance the mentorship experience with a tour across ECBC's facilities Thursday, May 20 educating the students about the Center's capabilities.

"I am very pleased to see how well Edgewood Middle School's students connected with the Center's volunteers at today's kick-off meeting," Doak said. "To round off this collaborative effort, we will organize a capstone event, including an ECBC tour or a one-day job shadowing to give the kids a taste of their mentor's workplace."

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Page last updated Tue April 13th, 2010 at 15:38