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Students on a Mission

By Kate Kurtin

nsbe photoThe National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) mission statement reads, “To increase the number of culturally responsible Black Engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community.” Few students takes that statement more seriously and closer to heart than senior Melissa Jacques, advisor and former president of the UConn NSBE Chapter and founder of the society’s annual Thanksgiving Food Drive and Basket Delivery events.

November 2009 marked the fifth time that Melissa, with her co-vice chairwomen, juniors Jannel James and Shawnece Simmons, led the charge in collecting food and money donations to feed families in the greater Hartford area. As a group, NSBE collected over $1,000 in donations from students, faculty and staff and more than 500 non-perishable food items. With the money they collected, Melissa and her team filled 45 gift-wrapped “television size boxes” with everything the families could need, from turkeys and pies to diapers. “We wanted to make sure that this would help the families beyond just the holiday — we wanted them to last at least a week,” Melissa explained. As the final step, NSBE club members divided into teams delivered the parcels.

nsbe photoThis year, NSBE members are sponsoring a series of Pre-Collegiate Engineering Conferences, the first of which was staged in November 2009 with another planned for the spring term. The conferences are attended by East Hartford High School students as a way to engage them in engineering. Melissa and the NSBE Pre-Collegiate Initiative Chairman, sophomore J’Vaughn Johnson plan the one-day conferences, which include various activities for the students including presentations and games. Attendees of the November conference enjoyed a presentation by Kevin McLaughlin, Director, Engineering Diversity Program. “Mr. McLaughlin’s presentation got the students excited because they really don’t know what engineering is and how it uses math and science,” Melissa explained.

Melissa and her fellow NSBE members plan a variety of other activities for the spring term, including attendance at the National NSBE Convention in March, which will afford members from across the globe the opportunity to attend seminars geared to making them better candidates for the job market. A full-day job fair is also planned.