As current and future engineering professionals, we all know that success is driven by innovation. In a time where the world is changing and affected by life-altering events, it is crucial to know how to pivot, and like every year, SWE took on that challenge! SWE set out to create a new, hybrid framework for our K-12 student programming by delivering content virtually to SWENexters. To adjust to an evolving learning environment, SWENext High School Leadership Academy (SHLA) shifted to year-round programming with virtual events and leadership training sessions for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
SWENext High School Leadership Academy (SHLA) is a program that provides awareness and inspires high school students to pursue careers in engineering and technology. SHLA provides students with leadership training, college advice, self-development topics, and the opportunity to experience the SWE community first-hand through networking, coaching, and mentoring to learn techniques to pursue STEM careers.
SHLA’s content is focused into key program tracks:
- College preparation
- STEM pathways
- Inclusion and cultural awareness
With the support of Motorola Solutions, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Cisco Technologies and General Motors, we launched our first virtual SHLA session, “Techniques for Advocating for Yourself” in July. Since our launch in July, students have attended virtual SHLA sessions in record-breaking numbers! As of 12/2/20, nearly 690 registrants and 350 confirmed attendees participated in virtual SHLA’s year-round programming, which is more than double last year’s attendance. Out of 154 post-event survey responses,
- 96% of participants are satisfied with the SHLA program.
- 90% of participants are satisfied with the speakers for the SHLA sessions.
Typically, SHLA’s annual live event takes place in the location of the WE Annual Conference. The biggest advantage of SHLA’s new framework incorporating virtual learning is removing the geographical barriers for students to participate in SHLA from across the world! Many of the students reflected on the community experience they felt from being a part of the program. One participant stated, “What I gained the most from the SHLA program is a community of mentors and peers who will guide me and aid me in my journey towards a STEM career.”
This year, participants were able to engage with a network of engineering professionals from our SWE partners and members serving on panel discussions and as mentors for our new mentoring program, SWENext Connect (click here for more details). After their mentoring session, many students felt more confident and ready to approach their path in a STEM career. One participant stated that what they’ve gained from the program is “understanding how to approach being a female engineer with confidence in all that I do whether in the front of the screen or behind the scenes. Another participant felt that the program was “truly so helpful and encouraging and empowering”.
One of the major highlights was the 2020 Virtual SHLA Graduation Ceremony for the November Program Cohort! Board Director, Kerrie Greenfelder, delivered a special commencement speech and participated in a Q&A discussion with participants.
Another big change for students in SHLA was our awards setup. Since this year’s SHLA event was not in-person, WE20 SWENext Awards winners were featured in the virtual awards hall and students were able to join a virtual pizza party with an engineering-themed Scavenger Hunt and a chance to meet with fellow award winners. One award recipient commented that “the [virtual] scavenger hunt was fun and easy and talking to everyone afterwards really made the night extra special”.
SHLA is only half-way through a fantastic year so far, so there will be more great sessions to come beginning in January 2021! Click here to view the full list of SHLA sessions.
For more information on SHLA, please visit us here.
This project is based upon work partially supported by the generosity of Motorola Solutions, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Cisco Technologies and General Motors.