Thinking positive helps teens

Editor’s note: This article is by Gili Ginzburg, the community relations coordinator for the IBM R&D Labs in Israel.

Gili Ginzburg
For dozens of high school students across Israel, the power of positive thinking is not just an empty slogan. For the fourth consecutive year, IBM scientists are helping lead Think Positive, a mentoring project that teams up IT professionals with students around the country.

As part of Think Positive, companies and municipalities in cities around Israel work together with students. In Haifa, for example, IBM researchers collaborate with representatives from Intel, Philips, CSR, Taro, and the Haifa Municipality.

Program volunteers come together with one goal in mind – to help students succeed and excel in math and science. But that goal, achieved through pairing up technology employees with high school students for one-on-one tutoring sessions, has led to a wide variety of benefits for both students and mentors, alike. 

Students have shown a 24% improvement in their math scores following participation in the Think Positive program.
Students have shown a 24 percent improvement in their math scores following participation in the Think Positive program. They all score above their class averages, and some move up from a remedial math class to a more advanced level. Students’ scores in other subjects, even those unrelated to math, have also shown significant improvement following their participation in the program.

As part of Think Positive, we’re also placing a lot of emphasis on diversity, with significant numbers of female and minority students participating in the program. One of the most important tasks our volunteers carry out is serving as role models. Teens come to IBM offices for the mentoring sessions, and see first-hand what a technology company looks like, and what it means to be an engineer. The girls in the project also get to meet female scientists. 

IBM also benefits from the Think Positive program. Aside from its value to society, volunteering helps prime our employees for management positions. Volunteering helps expand employees’ horizons, connecting them with the next generation of scientists and engineers, and providing them with recognition and appreciation from colleagues and management. Millennials entering the workplace also want to know more about the kinds of opportunities available in the workplace, so a well-developed corporate citizenship program is important for recruiting.

Moshe Klausner, an IBM Research scientist in Haifa who volunteers in the Think Positive program, says it offers opportunities that go beyond the regular work environment.

“Through Think Positive, I get a chance to help high school students understand that the technology field is more accessible than they might think,” Moshe said. “I also try to be not just be a teacher to my students, but a friend and mentor. This gives the teens a nice opportunity to get an adult’s perspective on a wide range of issues.”

Why does IBM continue to get involved in programs like Think Positive? In addition to the obvious benefits of helping local students, we want to let our local community know that IBM is a good corporate citizen. We know how to give back to the community. And our concern about the future drives our interest in community programs. Society increasingly needs more engineers and technology professionals – and investments in programs like Think Positive will help teens today, and lead to more engineers for the future.

If you're working with, or connected to, a high school in Israel and want more information, send an email to me at gili (at) il (dot) ibm (dot) com.

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