Zama students gain engineering, architecture insight from JED professionals
Priscilla Pierre, right, and Keshawn McNeill, center, both seniors at Zama Middle High School, listen to Brian Grogan, an engineer assigned to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Japan Engineer District, as he discusses building designs. The students were at JED April 11 through 15 to take part in the Exemplary Engineering Experience, or E3, Career Practicum Mentorship Program. (Photo Credit: Noriko Kudo) VIEW ORIGINAL

CAMP ZAMA Japan – “It impacted my life … for the better,” Priscilla Pierre said after a week spent learning from a team of experienced professionals in the career field she is interested in pursuing.

Pierre and Keshawn McNeill, both seniors at Zama Middle High School here, took part in the Exemplary Engineering Experience, or E3, Career Practicum Mentorship Program, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Japan Engineer District, hosted April 11 through 15.

The E3 program is a partnership between JED and the Department of Defense Education Activity, or DoDEA, said Kevin Hill, an architect assigned to JED and the coordinator for the program.

It is an “outreach effort” meant to engage with local high school students interested in engineering and architecture disciplines, which are highly technical fields rooted in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. The program is meant to stir interest in those students who consider engineering or architecture as possible career choices, he said.

Zama students gain engineering, architecture insight from JED professionals
Priscilla Pierre, right, and Keshawn McNeill, center, both seniors at Zama Middle High School, visit an engineer’s office while escorted by Kevin Hill, left, an architect assigned to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Japan Engineer District. The students were there April 11 through 15 to take part in the Exemplary Engineering Experience, or E3, Career Practicum Mentorship Program. (Photo Credit: Noriko Kudo) VIEW ORIGINAL

Pierre said she was determined to join the program after finding out it was specifically meant for aspiring engineers who would get to talk to and learn from engineers about the reality of their careers and ask them questions.

“This program provides information beyond what I could ever research myself,” Pierre said. “The internet can only tell you so much, but to hear from an actual engineer is priceless.”

Pierre said engineers from various disciplines showed her and McNeill huge books filled with plans for the design of a building, and demonstrated the testing of a model structure using computer software.

“It was jaw-dropping,” Pierre said. “It was so cool to learn the sheer scale of work that comes from different departments to create a single structure.”

Pierre said everything she learned during the program is related to the career she hopes to have in the future, and that it was “amazing to get a head start” on gaining some practical, applicable knowledge.

“I can apply every piece of advice they shared to my future goals to become a successful engineer,” Pierre said. “That is the beauty of the mentorship program.”

Pierre said she would absolutely recommend the program to other students because getting to meet dozens of brilliant professionals who were willing to share their wisdom and experience was an “amazing and valuable opportunity” that she likely would not have gotten to experience elsewhere.

“You will actually end up leaving feeling more empowered than when you came in,” Pierre said.

After the experience, Pierre said she is certain she wants to major in civil engineering and pursue a career as a structural engineer.

“This week has completely exceeded my expectations,” Pierre said. “It definitely solidified my career choice after being in this program.”

Zama students gain engineering, architecture insight from JED professionals
Keshawn McNeill, left, a senior at Zama Middle High School, looks at a blueprint with a team of engineers April 13 while participating in the Exemplary Engineering Experience, or E3, Career Practicum Mentorship Program at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Japan Engineer District. (Photo Credit: Noriko Kudo) VIEW ORIGINAL

McNeill said the program helped to expose him to the work area that interests him, and that he gained a lot of insight about the time and teamwork it takes to complete a project after the engineers showed him pages and pages of layout plans and design specifications.

McNeill said that in talking to the JED engineers, he got a sense of the large amount of dedication and hard work it takes to excel in the career field, but that it seems to be very rewarding in the end.

McNeill said the program helped motivate him to want to major in architecture and possibly work for the government or join the military as an engineer. He also recommended the program to other students who want to get a jumpstart on learning about the real world.

Hill said he and the other mentors gave both students an introduction to a professional office environment and advisement on college educational programs and multi-discipline integrated team dynamics.

“Our students this year are highly motivated individuals with a high level of interest in STEM activities,” Hill said. “Each [of them] brought a high level of interest and excitement to the program.”

Hill said he hopes that by taking part in the program, Pierre and McNeill took away from it that engineering and architecture are exciting, challenging and highly rewarding career choices, and that they realize that challenges can only be met through “an integrated team approach to successfully deliver and complete the mission.”

He thanked the JED and DoDEA teams for their support for the program.

“Their time investment is instrumental in shaping the successful outcomes of these young, outstanding individuals to become positive contributors to their communities and society,” Hill said. “I think my fellow mentors would agree that we find these opportunities to support tomorrow’s leaders highly rewarding.”