A multi-pronged mentorship opportunity awaits Grade 12 science and technology students at St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) this week.
That’s when the second Science and Technology Mentorship Breakfast is scheduled to take place.
“The event is intended to give our science students an opportunity to help them make an informed decision about the courses that they might like to take at university by bringing in a blend of recent graduates and people working in the various industries,” says John Walsh ’73, Manager of Community and Learning Partnerships and former science teacher at SMCS. He leads the organization of this event.
Close to 30 professionals working in scientific fields are slated to take part, including: engineering (mechanical, chemical, civil, biomedical, aerospace, mining, computer and electrical), computer science, cancer research, emergency medical services (paramedic), and optometry along with architecture and urban planning.
“We try to select the guests from a variety of fields, with a concentration on the ones that our students tend to gravitate to naturally,” says Walsh. Mentorship initiatives are a key component of the Community and Learning Partnerships portfolio.
The two and a half-hour session is structured into mini groups to ensure all of the more than 90 Grade 12 science and technology students maximize their time and the opportunity. Each group is presided by two science mentors --- many of whom are SMCS alumni --- and organized according to specific branches of science, based on their expertise.
“Students truly loved the opportunity to engage with alumni about possible career opportunities they could pursue,” says Frank Heijmans, SMCS Science Department Head and physics teacher.
“They enjoyed hearing personal stories from the alumni and what career paths individuals have taken. This year we are hoping to extend the period of time that students can network enabling them to talk to more alumni,” says Heijmans, who spent more than a decade of his career working directly in the science industry before becoming a teacher.
DE-CODING THE DISCIPLINE
Jacob Lang, science and biology teacher at SMCS, took part in the first Science and Technology Mentorship Breakfast in 2018. “It's important because it adds context to our teaching,” he says. “As teachers, we have only really one profession and that is teaching. At times, it may be difficult for a teacher to make career connections to our lessons on a daily basis. Having our students attend this breakfast is a way to provide the context of what they are learning to potential careers in those particular fields.”
“Not only does the science mentorship breakfast give students the opportunity to ask questions about future education and professional pathways, but it also allows them to practice one of the most important skills they will need when finding a job—networking,” says Patrick Feghali, physics teacher at SMCS, who will be participating for the first time with his students.
It will also be a first-time experience for Annelise Beaton Smith, chemistry teacher at SMCS. “I hope my students end up with a better understanding of the variety of careers a science education can lead to,” she says. “Many students think that if they do not want to be a doctor or engineer, science is not right for them. Our talented alumni prove otherwise, I hope the students realize the broad range of careers that become accessible to them when they have a good understanding of chemistry.”
When it comes to how she plans to prepare her students for this mentoring session, Beaton Smith adds, “I will challenge them to step outside their comfort zone and introduce themselves to at least two new alumni.”
Among non-alumni slated to be in attendance is Christina Blazanin, Director of Medical Excellence at Janssen Pharmaceuticals, who has a degree in forensic science and a son who started at SMCS in Grade 9 this year.
“As a new parent at SMCS, my husband and I attended the New Parent’s Wine and Cheese hosted by the SMCS Parents’ Association,” says Blazanin. “At the event, we spoke with Mr. Walsh and in that conversation he asked if I would like to participate in the Science [and Technology] Mentoring Breakfast. I immediately jumped at the opportunity to be part of an important initiative!”
Blazanin will also deliver the morning’s keynote address to students prior to the break-out sessions.
“As parents, a way to give back to SMCS and support the development and growth of the student body within the science programme based on my experience in the field is important to me,” she says.
“Mentoring opportunities are extremely important to both the mentor and the mentee. Throughout my career I have been fortunate to have great leaders as mentors and advocates. I hope that students walk away with a further appreciation for the importance of mentors and advisors in all stages of their lives as they begin to build their network.”
The Science and Technology Mentorship Breakfast takes place on Thursday, October 10 at 8 a.m. in the Robert Campeau Lecture Hall.