F&M Junior Helps Black and Brown High School Students Discover Their Individual Strengths and Maximize Potential
This story is part of our #FandMForward series documenting our students’ and recent grads’ resilience, adaptability and perseverance in navigating the obstacles that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented.
Junior public health major Hermela Assefa was ecstatic after getting accepted into the Ware Institute's Public Service Summer Institute. But when the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the program, she found a new opportunity: a remote internship with the STEM Impressionists Program.
An organization founded by Assefa’s mentor and seventh-grade teacher, Angela DeHart, the STEM Impressionists Program is a sustained mentoring cohort that works with Black and Brown high school students interested in exploring STEM. Assefa was fortunate to use her Mehlman Scholars Grant, an opportunity provided by alumnus and Trustee Ken Mehlman ’88, to pursue this summer enrichment experience and advance her career success.
“The most rewarding thing about my internship was being able to use my skills to empower Black and Brown high school students to strive for higher levels of excellence by planning and facilitating my own two-day leadership seminar,” Assefa said.
During this seminar, which Assefa built using her experience as a Harwood Leadership Seminar participant, each student took the CliftonStrengths Assessment, an evaluation designed to reveal a person’s individual strengths in order to maximize potential, to better understand their individual and team dynamics. As facilitator, Assefa guided the discussions and activities to achieve her goal: to help members deeply reflect, analyze, and understand how to develop their personal strengths to better understand themselves in addition to maximizing the collaborative nature of their strengths-based team.
"I learned the true definition of talent and was able to recognize some in myself. The fact that I’m a strategic thinker is very new to me,” one student participant of the seminar said. “This seminar has given me the drive to now want to maximize the traits I have to offer in a group dynamic."
Assefa noted her various F&M experiences were vital in helping her prepare for the internship.
“Whether it be through my involvement in the Harwood Leadership Seminar or my various positions on the African Caribbean Association’s executive board, my F&M experience helped me understand how to be a resilient leader,” she said. “It’s taught me to push past my limits, use my network to create a new solution, and overcome the downside of COVID-19.”