Our overarching goals are to impress upon high school students in Chicago the importance of continued education. We believe that one of the main hindrances of high school students in choosing a math or science-based college education is simply the lack of knowledge about these opportunities. Through projects and class discussions, we aim to both educate students about the different careers that can be attained with an engineering degree and encourage students to put their focus on preparing themselves while in high school to be able to achieve the high goals that they have laid for themselves.
Not every student has big plans to take on a math or science-based education after high school, and we recognize that. For them, our main efforts are to identify self-limiting ideas about their abilities and skills that have accumulated during grade school. These students may not be interested in engineering, but they may feel hesitant about pursuing any other degree at a university because of their background, educational progress, or available funds. Though our projects focus on engineering skills and principles, we encourage those students to look at the different options U of M has to offer as well.
The broad goals for ASB – Chicago are:
- To provide awareness about the field of engineering
- To excite students about engineering
- To challenge creativity and analytically thinking in project related work
- To underscore the skill sets/courses needed to enter engineering degree programs
- To encourage an “I can do that” mentality
- To model successful engineering students
- By example, to provide a figurative road map for how to identify, create, and pursue resources, opportunities that can help students reach their goals
- To facilitate the understanding and importance of global competency
How can the University of Michigan reach students in Chicago, especially underrepresented students who may not have considered a secondary education at Michigan, or even considered college as an option in the first place? How can we get them excited about math and science, and decide to pursue a college degree in engineering?
Well, why not get actual University of Michigan students to help encourage students to consider college and engineering?
Our first trip to Chicago was planned in 2011, with Amber Spears and Ms. Sharon Burch as project leaders. Amber recruited 11 other students from the National Society of Black Engineers at U of M to work on the Alternate Spring Break project. After Amber graduated in 2012, Trebecca McDonald was asked to lead the project. The program continues to be a viable vehicle for exposing students to engineering and the University of Michigan.
“I started Alternative Spring Break-Chicago in response to getting together with Ms. Sharon Burch and discussing how NSBE (the National Society of Black Engineers) could help the Office of Recruiting Initiatives in the College of Engineering. I felt that [the office] served a very influential role in helping me make my decision to attend UM…The goal was to spread the message that the College of Engineering at U of M is a great place to attend and that there is a strong minority community that welcomes you there and will support you.”