Girls Get More Than Math Lessons From Mentoring

Pam Mazor and fellow S*M*A*R*T mentors pose for a photo after receiving special shirts to wear when working with the middle school students they help.

Growing up, Pam Mazor received lots of support as she pursued a career in science, and it made a big difference. Now, she wants to be the difference for a new generation of smart young women. For more than a decade, Mazor has visited middle school students once a week at lunchtime to provide math tutoring. But it goes way beyond fractions and exponents. She’s also providing an example of the kind of future that is possible.

“I believe strongly in a science career for girls,” said Mazor, who earned a chemical engineering degree at Penn State. “My parents supported me, but a lot of these girls don’t have that. And they’re so smart, and they can do it if they just have some encouragement.”

Mazor is one of many Dow employees who have helped students through the S*M*A*R*T (Science and Math Academic Resources Team) mentoring program at Jefferson Middle School in Midland, Mich. Mazor has been relocated to the East Coast to serve as a program director in the setup of new research facilities in Collegeville, Pa., but there are many people still involved in the program in Midland, and many others who are capable of joining them.

“Algebra is as hard as the tutoring gets,” Mazor said. “It’s more about showing them that they can be successful at math and science. Then I’ve had some girls where it’s not about math at all, it’s just about gaining confidence. You find their interest. One girl, her interest was graphic arts. Then my job was about encouraging her to stay in school.” Since leaving Midland, Mazor has remained busy connecting with students, working with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and putting on science demonstrations that let kids make their own ice cream or learn how sun screen works. But her one-on-one mentoring sessions will always hold a special place in her heart.

“There are girls I still keep in touch with who are at college,” Mazor said. It’s a bond forged, in part, by the shared understanding of the obstacles women face when they put their intelligence on display rather than their appearance. “I remember one time in high school we were in social studies class. I really liked the class and it was really interesting, and there was this group of girls who came up to me after class and were teasing me. And I told them, ‘I don’t make fun of you for smoking in the bathroom, don’t make fun of me for enjoying this class.’ “ Mazor said. “And it helps to have friends. There was a group of us who were smart and athletic, and that helped a lot. So you’re not in it alone, you have a support structure.

“I don’t know how you’d do it alone.”

And she doesn’t want anyone to have to.