By Cheryl Clemens
As a 17-year-old participant in the High School Involvement Partnership (HIP) mentoring program, Monica Delgado reported regularly to one of the conference rooms in Building 600H in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, where she’d work with her mentor on her robotics project and attend workshops on life as a STEM professional at Northrop Grumman.
Fast-forward 11 years and Monica still regularly visits those conference rooms, only now she’s meeting with colleagues about the work she does as a process engineer for Falcon Edge and F-15J transmitters.
“I didn’t even know what an engineer was when I first came here,” she said. “And now part of my job is doing things that I used to watch demonstrations of in HIP and think, ‘Wow.'”
This month HIP celebrates 50 years of providing curious teenagers from mostly lower income, underserved communities with not only an introduction to STEM careers, but hands-on experience and practical knowledge that prepares them for college or to pursue a certificate or vocational position. To date, more than 5,000 students have spent part of their junior and/or senior year embedded at one of 20 sites learning about roles ranging from aerospace engineer and laser technician to aircraft structures mechanic and computer scientist.
“Research shows the earlier a student is exposed to STEM, the greater the impact it can have on their future,” said Stephanie Fitzsimmons, a senior manager for Corporate Citizenship. “Giving students a chance to be mentored and have a hands-on project opens the aperture for what STEM and Northrop Grumman have to offer. Students can tie back to what they are learning in high school and help them plan for their future.”
Roy Lara knew he was interested in STEM as early as middle school, but had no idea how that could realistically translated into a fulltime career. Then he learned his Palmdale, California, high school participated in the HIP program. That experience led to an internship supporting assembly line optimization for the F-35, and today he is a B-2 avionics intern working on displays, radars and antennas. He’ll graduate next year from Cal State Northridge with a degree in electrical engineering.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d be an engineer,’ he said. “But starting out in HIP helped me choose a major and gave me a lot of insight into things like how important it is to have a mentor, how to network and how to develop soft skills — things you don’t necessarily learn in school but are so important for personal and professional growth.”
Bartholomew Perez, a systems architect engineer, volunteers as a HIP mentor in Redondo Beach, California, so he can share all the advice he wished he had received in high school.
“A lot of our participants never considered STEM as a career path, and they start out with really basic questions like, ‘What does an engineer do?'” he said. “But once they gain an understanding of all that goes on here and the opportunities available, the next question is usually, ‘How can I learn how to do that?‘”
That enthusiasm is precisely the response Stephanie hopes the program elicits, because successful HIP participants can be eligible for internships that take them through college and end with a job offer.
“HIP is part of Corporate Citizenship’s outreach strategy to develop students’ STEM abilities and put them on a path toward workforce readiness,” she explains. “It is an early bridge that leads right into University Relations and Recruiting and then Talent Acquisition in a really unique way, particularly for students from low income, underserved communities.”
That’s an opportunity Bartholomew said many of his HIP mentees are eager to capitalize on.
“There’s an awareness you gain early on when you have an opportunity like HIP,” he said. “It helps you focus so much more during undergrad, and understand the value of things like building a network and participating in extracurricular activities. And it helps you look toward the future and see where you want to be five years from now and 10 years from now.”
“HIP is a step in a career path for high school students to help them answer question the questions, ‘What can my future look like?'”
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