When faced with the social restrictions of the pandemic over the last year, it’s easy to understand why a school would consider putting a program on hold that involves older students mentoring younger students in areas of career exploration. For the SkillsUSA chapter at the Academies of Antelope Valley in Quartz Hill, Calif., however, putting their Student2Student mentoring program on hold wasn’t an option; they just needed to find a new way to make it happen. In doing so, they secured for themselves not just an enriching experience for all involved, but SkillsUSA’s 2021 Student2Student Mentoring Award.
SkillsUSA’s Student2Student program connects older students with younger students with the goal of encouraging young minds to explore future careers and make decisions that will lead to marketable skills and productive futures. It’s also a way for chapters to participate in America’s Promise Alliance, an organization that brings together national nonprofits, businesses, community and civic leaders, educators, citizens, and young people to help improve the lives and futures of America’s youth.
In their Student2Student project, Academies of Antelope Valley students used an educational program they developed called “ScienceCraft” to work with more than 100 elementary and middle school students this past year. Their sessions focused on comprehensive science lessons ranging from oceanography to physics. Using the video game Minecraft, along with the Discord platform for chat and voice, every student could speak and interact with their mentors and teachers. To accommodate all participants, meetings were streamed on Google Meets, and YouTube tutorials were created.
Each mentoring session consisted of an interactive lecture running synchronously in multiple Discord channels, with two teachers per class. At the end of the presentation, a Kahoot quiz was given to check understanding of the material. Following the lectures, students worked on build challenges so they could apply the newly learned concepts. For example, if students just learned about projectile motion, the assignment was a TNT cannon build. Once they completed their builds, the students explained how they demonstrated the concepts they just learned.
Because of the pandemic, the participants were eager to actively engage with others, create new friendships, find motivation to succeed in class — and have some fun. The SkillsUSA members who created the program developed a passion for teaching younger students as they observed the impact their mentoring had on others. The SkillsUSA members intentionally leveraged each lesson to help the younger students gain useful career-readiness skills found in the SkillsUSA Framework. They used the Essential Elements of teamwork, work ethic and professionalism to grow as facilitators of their Student2Student program. They also proved, as have so many others over the last year, that, no matter what the obstacle, SkillsUSA members find a way to overcome it.