Published: May 20, 2021 By

Eight graduate students from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering spent the past academic year mentoring high school students from Denver Public Schools, providing advice and modeling their passion for science and engineering.

The Denver Public Schools Coach Mentoring Program connects high school students with professionals working in a given field of interest—in this case, science and engineering—and provides structured meetings to help establish personal connections and mentorship.

Becky O’Toole, who completed her PhD this year, was a member of the department’s all-women cohort of eight that mentored students in the topics of engineering, higher education options and professionalism.

“All of the mentors are assigned one or two mentees, and we meet virtually about twice a month,” O’Toole said.

Although the mentors and students had to meet remotely this past year, they had plenty to discuss.

“A few specific activities we've done with our mentees are resume reviews, lab tours, advice on choosing post-secondary options and for success in college, and informational sessions on what it's like to be a graduate student in engineering,” O’Toole said.

One of the mentors, Ali Borelli, a student in the Bryant Research Group, found the program to be a rewarding experience.

“This experience has been an incredible way to connect with the future—a group of young women interested in the STEM field,” she said. “Through this program, I have made strong bonds with my mentee and am excited to continue to support her and watch her succeed over the years to come.”

Courtney Ward is the mentoring program coordinator for East High School.

"Working with graduate students in the ChBE Department at CU Boulder has been an incredibly profound experience for our young female engineering students at East High School,” Ward said. “Throughout the course of this year, the mentors from CU Boulder have provided comprehensive support and guidance around career and college related topics which has further motivated the students at East to excel and unwaveringly pursue their post-secondary dreams. I'm grateful for each and every one of them.”

The program will resume in the fall for the 2021-2022 academic year. Graduate students interested in participating in the program may contact Paige Brimley in the fall. The program will also be advertised via the department listservs.