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ODU mentorship program aims to increase STEM involvement for girls in Norfolk Public Schools

The program, which started in 2012, has seen recent success by nearly tripling the number of girls taking STEM classes from 2020 to 2022.
Credit: ODU

NORFOLK, Va. — The Old Dominion University Batten College of Engineering has provided mentors in Norfolk Public Schools since 2012, and those mentors have proven to help NPS student go on to college, ODU said in a press release. 

"Without the guidance of so many dedicated Norfolk Public School and Old Dominion University representatives, we certainly would not have been able to accomplish the goals we strived toward," Karissa Crawford said of her time in one of the programs. 

Crawford is now a civil engineering technology major at ODU, and she mentors students in the same program she was in. 

That program is called Girls in STEM, and it is offered at Granby High School, ODU said. The program aimed to grow female student involvement in STEM classes. 

Girls in STEM is only offered at Granby High School, but another program, the Air Force Association's CyberPatriot, is available to all NPS students. 

According to uscyberpatriot.org, the program puts teams of students in the position of newly hired IT professionals. 

"Through a series of online competition rounds, teams are given a set of virtual operating systems and are tasked with finding and fixing cybersecurity vulnerabilities while maintaining critical services," the website said. 

ODU's chair of the Engineering Technology Department, Vukica Jovanović, works closely with Deborah Marshall, Career and Technical Education Teacher Specialist at NPS, to coordinate the mentors. 

The mentorship program is a paid undergraduate research assistantship funded through various grants, the most recent being from the U.S. Department of Education. 

The programs have been successful so far. 

Every girl who has participated in the Girls in STEM program has gone on to college, the university said.

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