City students learn environmental values during career tour at Tech

Kali Katerberg/Daily Mining Gazette Students from Detroit and southeast Michigan head out on the Agassiz, part of a week exploring natural resources and engineering careers and majors.

HOUGHTON — A group of 13 high school students from Detroit and southeast Michigan spent last week getting a firsthand look at the Copper Country and environmental and engineering programs at Michigan Tech.

“The natural resource career path is the least diverse, so it’s important how you get students from largely urban environments to be interested,” said Joan Chadde, the director of the Center for Science and Environmental Outreach at the Great Lakes Research Center.

The week’s activities included presentations from local experts and faculty on topics like wastewater treatment, forestry and invasive species, as well as outdoor sports like hiking and kayaking.

She hopes the students will give new consideration to engineering and natural resources careers with the broad overview and the contagious passion of researchers.

Student often come to the program with ideas of careers they are interested in, and many of them aren’t focused on natural resources or ecology, said Lisa Perez from the US Forest Service Urban Connections. However, they typically walk away from the program with new ideas and shifted focus.

Perez and Mike Reed of the Detroit Zoological Society have worked with the students since the program began four years ago.

“It opened their eyes, maybe not to a totally different career path, but it opened their eyes to the fact that they are responsible for the future of the environment,” said Reed.

One of the students, Mikayla Manthiram, came to the program already intending to study environmental engineering but felt she learned more about the job and Tech as a potential school.

“I realized there’s a lot more substance that I can study, like soil or rock or something, and they’re all equally interesting so it’s expanded my horizons,” she said.

Another student, Marianne Delosreyes, was able to experience hiking and mountain biking for the first time and is now considering an environmental science minor.

“It’s really fun, actually,” she said. “I really enjoyed it.”

“I was really only exposed to the medical field when it comes to in-depth careers, so I wanted to see what else was out there,” Delosreyes said.

Both students highly recommended the program for other students.

“Even if you’re not interested in environmental engineering you should at least come to learn about the environment and what’s going on,” Manthiram said.

When the program started four years ago, Chadde was looking to bring students from cities like Detroit who might not have had exposure to careers in natural resources or environmental engineering.

“She asked me, ‘How can we get students from Detroit up to Michigan Tech?’ I said, ‘First of all you have to ask. You have to ask the right people, and you have to make sure when they come they feel comfortable,'” Reed said.

Part of that is guidance for the students, some of whom are potential first-generation college students. The other part is making parents comfortable.

“Having people that are sort of bridging that gap, it not only works for the kids, it works really well for their parents. I think that’s what’s helping get kids to start coming up here,” he said.


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