Thank you to everyone who joined us at Saturday’s banquet to commemorate the conclusion of another incredible year of the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy!
At this culminating event, we celebrated our Scholars’ many successes and featured student presentations of Leadership Grant Projects undertaken during the 2012-13 program. Attendees included 70 Scholars and 120 family members, as well as several program alumni (current college freshmen), Project Mentors and other volunteers, and representatives of Illinois Institute of Technology and the Boeing Company. Boeing’s Grant Crampton (Functional Integration Manager, Engineering, Operations, and Technology) and IIT’s President John L. Anderson both shared remarks as part of the event.
At the beginning of the evening, Jerry Doyle (IIT’s Vice Provost for Student Access, Success, and Diversity Initiatives) set the stage by describing why programs like this are so essential to inspiring future leaders and how — through sponsoring them — partners like the Boeing Company can change the course of young people’s lives.
Marya Spont (Program Director of the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy) summarized this year’s program “by the numbers.” The 2012-13 cohort comprised 106 Scholars from 52 area high schools, who came together last summer for 140 hours of programming. Since then, the program has had 460 Scholar attendances across 40+ academic-year events — not including Scholars’ numerous meetings with staff, with their Leadership Grant Project groups, or the banquet! Program staff wrote recommendations for more than 50 students, including several letters for some students. A full 100% of last year’s seniors graduated from high school, with 98% going straight to a four-year school and 2% entering a two-year institution on their way to a 4-year institution. The numbers for this year’s seniors are coming soon!
The highlight of the evening was Scholars’ presentations of their Leadership Grant Projects (LGPs), through which they created opportunities in their communities over the course of the year with help from dedicated Project Mentor volunteers. This year, 56 Scholars completed the following 11 LGPs, impacting countless individuals and communities across Chicagoland! Program Coordinator Connie Ma facilitated their presentations.
- Enviroprint: Ideas Into Action — Inspiring youth to make positive imprints on their environment through childhood and beyond. Scholars: Alex, Amy, Fiona, Queena, Letoria, Catherine, Amanda. Mentors: Alex Bopp, Dr. Bhoopesh Mishra.
- Arrow Around — Helping students increase sensitivity to and awareness of local and worldwide environmental issues. Scholars: Shakira, Saharai, Anita, Florencio, Sarina, Samantha. Mentors: Nabeel Ebeid, Nate Nichols.
- Operation: Contain the Rain — Enabling and inspiring water conservation by improving the aquaponics system at the Whitney Young High School greenhouse. Scholars: Charles, Antonio, Karol. Mentors: Amanda Hickman, Neil Schweitzer.
- Encouraging Healthy Lifestyles & Communities — Helping children adopt healthy lifestyles and influence their community. Scholars: Tredarin, Jacquelin, Paola, Francisco, Odalys, Lesley, Amy, Francesca. Mentors: Julia Gonzalez, Adam Schulman.
- Supporting People In Cooking Education (SPICE) – Encouraging healthier eating habits for future generations. Scholars: Cyrenthia, Tyre, Crystal, Minxian, Stephany, Minhua, Linda. Mentor: Toby Tieger.
- Express – Spreading awareness about resources for LGBTQ youth in Chicago and helping them find emotional support. Scholars: Serena, Susan, Sergio. Mentor: Thomas Valenti.
- Changing Places That Are Home — Educating youth about how to help homeless animals. Scholars: Korbin, Cierra. Mentors: Jerry Meng, Wa Yuan.
- Rising Over Obstacles Through STEM (ROOTS) – Creating fun, hands-on, after school engineering activities for middle schoolers to encourage interest in STEM fields. Scholars: Sebastian, Layalee, Katherine, Andrew, Matthew, Tori, William, Samuela, Louis, Juliana, Nick, Akshara. Mentors: Grant Crampton, Wa Yuan.
- We Want A Voice — Getting teens involved in decisions about school policy. Scholar: Jasmine. Mentor: Sayiddah McCree.
- Project LEAD (Learning Engineering by Applying DIY) — Generating interest in STEM through DIY (Do It Yourself) projects. Scholars: Maritza, Daniel, John. Mentors: Sheena Enriquez, Louis Fernandez.
- Target Future — Designing innovative solutions to deter gun violence and build prosperous communities. Scholars: Adam, Karl, Josh, Brian. Mentor: Marya Spont.
In addition to presenting the work they accomplished over the course of the year, groups shared reflections on the process of developing and implementing these projects, such as how they responded to unanticipated roadblocks. Sage “lessons learned” included “communication is key,” “Google docs is a lifesaver,” and “don’t yell at the kids.”
After each presentation, Scholars recognized their Project Mentors and provided them with a token of appreciation. We surprised IIT’s Professor Bob Anderson (Director of Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property; Adjunct Professor in Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Stuart School of Business) with an “Honorary Project Mentor” award for his incredible service to the program. For the last two years, Professor Anderson has not only led project management and presentation skills workshops for students developing Leadership Grant Projects, he has also volunteered countless hours of his time to counseling individual groups of students as they prepared their presentations for the banquet. We are all better public speakers because of him!
One especially moving part of the evening was when two program alumni — current college freshman — spoke about how their experience in the program has impacted them longer-term and imparted words of advice to this year’s Scholars. Diana Lozano, now a freshman in Sociology and Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago, shared how the program continues to impact her each day, even though she ultimately decided not to enter a STEM field: “I really enjoyed the process of thinking through the big problems presented to us and working together with my cohort to find a feasible solution. I may never be an engineer, but I have taken this mentality and try my best to think and work through all obstacles placed before me while also remembering that I’m not alone….Every problem can be solved, no matter how big it is.” Sandra Tobias, now a freshman in Biomedical Engineering at IIT (and current intern with the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy), spoke to how the program allowed her to realize that “there is more to life than just music, sports, T.V., and getting a good grade to please somebody.” She advised Scholars not to fear an education, but rather to take advantage of opportunities to learn new things, seek connections between your education and the real world, and not let the opinions of others or your own doubts get in the way. As illustration of the importance of staying focused on academics, Sandra shared, proudly yet bashfully, that this mentality helped her get a 4.0 in her first semester of college!
Then a small group of current Scholars came to the stage to thank the Boeing Company, on behalf of other Scholars and the program, and to provide Grant Crampton with a token of appreciation for Boeing’s contributions. Jess explained how the program helped transform her “little, eentsy glimmer of an interest in STEM” into a passion and career path. Lesley stressed how the program showed her that she could make an impact as a teenager, not only helping her realize that she could change the world around her but also connecting her with peers who had a similar drive. Javier described “a Javier before Boeing Scholars and Javier after Boeing Scholars,” emphasizing the connections to teens and mentors from different backgrounds and the rigorous educational activities as key to him developing his own personal and academic identity. Crystal echoed the value of learning in a diverse setting, sharing how the program helped her develop friendships with “people I’d never thought I would even speak to” and “has broken barriers that are still up for many other people today.” These Scholars then welcomed Mr. Crampton to the stage, who accepted their gift on behalf of the Boeing Company, read a moving letter to the Scholars from Dr. John Tracy (Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President for Engineering, Operations, and Technology, who was unable to attend the banquet himself), and shared his own accolades, words of wisdom, and trademark enthusiasm for fostering leadership in young people. Mr. Crampton also gave Scholars a new word through which to understand themselves: fearless!
IIT’s President John Anderson did us the honor of concluding the event by sharing his reflections and remarks. President Anderson applauded the students on their many accomplishments and encouraged them to think about their careers in broader terms than their college major. He used himself as an example of this, saying that he knew when he was 17 that he wanted to study chemical engineering, but not that he would become a university president! He closed by thanking students’ families for raising such outstanding and mature young Scholars.
Throughout the evening, when formal presentations were not taking place, guests had the opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new ones. Scholars and their families mingled with other guests to swap stories, pose for pictures, and even make origami birds!
At the heart of the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy is a deep commitment to community-building across our diverse student body. Core to our identity as a program is the idea of a learning community, in which no one learns alone. To help students carry this community and mentality forward with them — wherever their path may lead — we put a picture of all Scholars on the certificate recognizing their official completion of the program, which they each received before leaving the banquet. Scholars, when you’re in college or even a decade from now, we hope you look back and remember those many fellow Scholars who have informed your learning and inspired you over the course of the past two years! It has been such an incredible journey.
In closing this post and in concluding the program year, I wish to say to our Scholars that — whether you are returning or graduating — I hope you know that you bring joy and meaning to my life. I feel so lucky and proud to know each and every one of you, and can’t wait to witness what you do in the future!