Mentoring is proven to have a positive impact on students’ efficacy, confidence and decision-making skills and to enhance their career aspirations.
As a freshman in high school, Anah Lewi knew very little about computer science. But while searching the internet, she discovered a video that caught her attention. “What Most Schools Don’t Teach” featured tech pioneers and celebrities discussing the benefits of learning to read and write code.
“That video brought to life something I’d never thought about before,” says Lewi. “So much of our lives are governed by technology today — it should be something students learn about. I decided after watching that video that I wanted to learn to code.”
Lewi applied for and was accepted to the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program, which is supported by AT&T. Girls Who Code is a national initiative that exposes high school girls to computer science and jobs in technology. During the seven-week class, Lewi learned a variety of technical and business skills. But the curriculum was challenging, and Lewi sometimes felt frustrated. Fortunately, mentoring is a large component of the Girls Who Code program.
“Computer science is challenging, and you are going to make mistakes. The mentors and teaching assistants were always there to help us and encourage us when we got frustrated,” says Lewi.
Mentoring is proven to have a positive impact on students’ efficacy, confidence and decision-making skills and to enhance their career aspirations. For Lewi, mentoring encouraged her and kept her engaged.
“Mentoring is important not only for a young woman of color, but women in general because we are heavily underrepresented in the tech industry. It’s important to have someone to look up to,” says Lewi.
Interaction with Girls Who Code mentors also put Lewi on AOL’s radar, with whom she interned during the summer before her senior year of high school. Following high school graduation, Lewi enrolled at Wellesley College, where she’s pursuing an undergraduate degree in computer science.
“Having that exposure before coming to college absolutely changed the way I looked at computer science,” says Lewi. “And I now have a network of people I can turn to when I get frustrated and I know they’ll encourage me and help keep me going.”
The AT&T Aspire program has three parts: Connecting with organizations that are doing great work in education and scaling those organizations (for example, programs like Girls Who Code, Imagination Foundation, Media Maker and Code.Org); finding and promoting technological innovations that are solving real-world problems in the education community; and mentoring.
AT&T employees mentor students throughout the country to help them discover their career passions and potential. Since October 2012, AT&T employees have impacted more than 350,000 students through more than 2.2 million hours of mentoring.
According to Senior Vice President for Corporate Social Responsibility Charlene Lake, AT&T emphasizes online mentoring because it allows more students to receive — and more AT&T employees to offer — mentoring services.
“It’s difficult for many professionals to mentor in the traditional way, which usually involves spending time with a student offsite,” says Lake. “If we can provide mentoring opportunities via technology it makes it easier for everybody that wants to get involved to do so. Our employees are passionate about education, and they play a critical role in this program through their mentoring efforts.”
To inspire educators and the private sector to help prepare students for the future, download the guide, “Leading the Future for Students, for Educators, and in Technology: Transforming education today to build the workforce of tomorrow.” Click here to learn more.