The highly anticipated In2science Annual Awards was held at the Science Gallery, Melbourne to celebrate the outstanding achievements and contributions of mentors, students, teachers and schools who participated in the peer mentoring program in 2021.
Throughout 2021, In2science has supported science and maths engagement and education across 54 schools, with 187 mentor placements reaching 3,294 students in metropolitan and regional/rural Victoria. The most inspiring examples from across the program were highlighted at this special celebration.
The event was opened by In2science Program Director, Dr. Alison Every with an Acknowledgement of Country followed by a video showcasing the Mentor Experience. The Hon. Prof. John Brumby AO was invited to deliver his keynote speech, followed by Prof. Vera Ignjatović, a Director of the Toyota Community Foundation Australia Pty. Ltd. Prof. Brumby spoke of the generous support of In2science’s program and award partners, the Toyota Community Trust, Victoria’s Department of Education and Training, CSL Behring and Boeing was acknowledged, followed by a reflection of this challenging, but ultimately rewarding year. Prof. Ignjatović emphasised on the importance of small gestures in life that can spark a sense of curiosity in something new and congratulated the team on a successful launch of the Mentor Leaders Program, a new endeavour made possible with support from the Toyota Community Trust.
The first winner of the evening was Brianne Chen of Virtual School Victoria (VSV), who, since taking the reins as In2science’s central point of contact for VSV in 2020 has hosted an incredible 30 mentor placements supporting 32 school students across Victoria. Joint Mentor Support Award winner, Lakshmi Sharma of Coburg High School has built wonderful relationships with mentors and In2science since joining the program in 2019 and continued her enthusiasm by maintaining these connections from in-person placements in Semester 1 to online with remote learning in Semester 2.
Two schools, Maffra Secondary College and Bayswater Secondary College took home awards for their school communities. Maffra Secondary College in Central Gippsland has been a committed and outstanding eMentoring partner school since the inception of the regional online mentoring model in 2016. Kristen Raine, who accepted the award on behalf of the school community has been phenomenal in her support of the program and is visibly dedicated to the success of In2science at the school. Amanda Dales received the award on behalf of Bayswater Secondary College, who have been a Swinburne University of Technology partner school since 2012 and is a school who fully embraces the range of benefits In2science and mentorship.
Ashlee Davey of Galen Catholic College, Wangaratta and Fatuma Mohamed of Mount Alexander College were joint winners as eMentoring and in-class mentees this year and enthusiastically accepted the Award from Prof Brumby. An inspiring speech from fellow mentee, Year 9 student from Virtual School Victoria and previous In2science award winner, Alex Zavros-Orr followed, where he detailed his experience with 4 science mentors from a diverse range of science backgrounds over the last 4 semesters.
Lastly, the Mentor Awards were presented. Five outstanding mentors representing each of the In2science partner universities were invited to the stage to be congratulated. The mentors of In2science “are truly the heart and soul” of the peer mentoring program. It is their commitment and enthusiasm that makes the difference to secondary school students. Patrick Taylor from RMIT University received the Boeing-sponsored STEM Champion award for his dedication in the online space during remote learning. Patrick co-facilitated computer science workshops and trained other mentors to do the same while also sharing his education journey in computational chemistry with multiple schools online.
John Seymour from Swinburne University of Technology won the Impact Award due to his dedication to mentoring and professional development since starting with In2science in 2019. John participated in eMentoring as well as in-class mentoring and has always shown detailed preparation and facilitation in supporting students to make a “sincere and valued impact.”
Toyota Community Trust sponsored the next two awards, with La Trobe University’s Lily Kenchington-Evans and The University of Melbourne’s Stella Ulm receiving the Dedication and Mentor Leader Awards, respectively. Lily has been an In2science mentor for four years and has always been a “shining example of dedication” through her work with many year levels at a variety of schools in Victoria. Stella Ulm has shown exceptional leadership skills during her 2 years as an In2science eMentor and, after being chosen to take part in the Toyota Community Trust-supported Mentor Leaders program, further demonstrated her outstanding commitment, especially supporting young women in STEM. During her time as a Mentor Leader, Stella engaged with multiple In2science placements through guest speaker sessions and facilitating career discussions.
Madeline Tomkins from La Trobe University took home the Regional Impact award for making an exceptionally positive impact on regional and rural students in In2science’s eMentoring program. Madeline frequently requested multiple placements and has been an extremely enthusiastic, reliable, and dedicated mentor since joining the program in 2020.
Finally, RMIT University mentor, Saumaya Fernando was invited to share her experiences of volunteering with In2science. Saumaya reflected on her motivations for joining the program, what inspired her to undertake a science degree and some notable memories of her time in the classroom. Most of all, as she recounted her experience as a mentor, she is grateful to be “the biggest nerd in the room and have someone look at (her) in wonder”.
The evening finished with good conversation over refreshments among the inspiring artworks of the Science Gallery, Melbourne, the atmosphere feeling all the more electric as all attendees embraced the opportunity to connect with others in person. Despite the challenges of 2021, In2science’s success continues to be reflected through the hard work of its mentors, teachers, schools and government and industry supporters.
In2science is grateful for the generous support of our Program and Awards partners, Toyota Community Trust, CSL Behring, Selby Scientific Foundation, Boeing and the Department of Education and Training, Victoria.