The Spartans have arrived in Macomb and they’re looking for adults in STEM professions who are willing to vounteer their time as mentors for at-risk and military youth throughout the county.
Having successfully established the 4-H Tech Wizards program in Wayne and Ottawa counties last year, Michigan State University Extension, with funding from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, is expanding the program to Macomb and Oakland counties this year.
A national 4-H Program of Distinction, 4-H Tech Wizards is a mentoring program that matches professionals from the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with at-risk or military youth. The mentors are screened and trained to work with groups of four students on a weekly basis for one academic year.
“We’re looking for anybody–engineers, even graphic artists–we have pretty much anything you can think of related to STEM, from app development to rocketry and robotics,” said Scott Lakin, extension educator. “Part of our grant covers all this sweet equipment to play with, we just need people to have an interest.”
Mentors are expected to work with their mentees on different STEM and community service projects each week, while building the mentoring relationship.
“The idea is to use all that experience from the mentor to promote STEM careers and build interest among young people,” Lakin said. “We want them to connect math with the opportunity to shoot a rocket off in their school yard. It’s getting them to realize they can do this.”
The first session of 4-H Tech Wizards will start this month at the heart of Macomb County with the youth at Seminole Academy in Mount Clemens. From here, the number of sites offering the program will expand with the number of active mentors available.
“Because this is a school-based site, it can only serve youth from that school, but when we add more community sites, we can support any youth and can even incorporate the program with something like a YMCA day camp,” Lakin said.
Mentors are asked to commit to two hours a week for one academic or calendar year. MSU Extension provides training for the mentors and supports them with equipment and curriculum.
“We make sure the mentors are well equipped,” Lakin said. “We help them and guide them and define their role as a mentor. We give them different techniques they can use and provide training one-on-one on how to work with the kids.”
MSU Extension is also pursuing partnerships with local organizations interested in providing sites to hold mentoring sessions, recruit mentors, refer youth and offer financial support.
What does it take to be a mentor?
- Age 21 or older
- Pass a screening and background check
- Able to volunteer two hours a week for at least one academic or calendar year
- Self-directed, positive, team player attitude
- Willingness to explore new topics of interest
- Complete MSU Extension's mentor training
- Experience or interest in STEM fields
For more information on the program, visit the 4-H Tech Wizard's Facebook page.