The IIT Boeing Scholar Academy is a free, two-year academic enrichment program that inspires high-achieving Chicago-area high school students to make a difference in their communities through STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) and to pursue higher education.
This program had always caught my attention since my arrival to Illinois Institute of Technology. I still remember on my first day to IIT, I was offered a tour to explore the different parts of the school’s labs, and here is where I was first introduced to the program. I took a quick tour among the students while they were working on their projects in the Idea Shop at IIT.
The 100 students were divided into small sections, and each team focused on a specific project. I liked how the program gives the students the chance to work in small groups so that can practice and learn the “art of teamwork;” in doing so, they can figure out that communication is the key, appreciate the value of each members varied contributions and talents. In completing directed tasks toward a goal, each team member understands how essential it is, and they also, somewhat surprisingly, learn that projects are a lot more work that expected. Those values will be very helpful in their university studies, and even in their practical life.
Last month I had the chance for the first time to participate in the program in the “job shadow day.” The idea of this day is remarkable!
Scholars get the chance to visit different companies in the city of Chicago where they can be in contact with the employers and other leading innovators in a professional setting to see how the job is being done, and how plans are being executed along the way.
For the very beginning I thought that this would be more than what a typical high school student might be able to handle, but I was learned how motivated and intelligent these students were and how hungry they were for the opportunities ahead of them. They were very effective, they asked important questions, and they gave attention for the details.
A recent IIT graduate serves as the program adviser for the “job shadow day;” and he organized the activities so that the experience of each student was meaningful and offered within a supportive environment. The material and “life in the day” of each organization was very helpful; even the most senior leaders of the company were more than happy to explain their duties for the young scholars, and to answer their questions in a very friendly environment.
I think days like this provide a significant impact on the trajectory of a student’s professional life. It will make it easier for them to decide their specific major, and many learned that there are many pathways towards success and meaningful career; and this will help the students be creative in their choices, and that will save them a lot of time.
I can see how programs like the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy provide a unique set of opportunities for young Chicago high schools students. In speaking to these students, I learned that many of these students will be the first in their families to earn a college degree, and they certainly represent the diversity of Chicago. And I suspect, that learning to appreciate and understand their differences across religion, gender, orientation, race, ethnicity, and citizenship will teach lessons upon which they will draw upon for years.
For me, this program serves as a passport to greater opportunities and a “crossing card” for a safe future. These young leaders are being trained to be open, collaborative and innovative thinkers, “learners who lead,” and “leaders learning” to be creative, extraordinary, and supportive.
As my peers and I have traveled through our experiences and studies at Illinois Tech, we each develop ideas for the future that we will carry back with us to Syria. For me, the design-thinking, and problem-based approach to learning throughout the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy as well as its integrated approach to introducing young people to professional careers very early represents one of the initiatives that I will develop along with my peers – and perhaps some of these current Chicago students – for Syria.
IIT Armour College of Engineering | Expected graduation, December 2014
Safouh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org