Local business exec among Teach for America Week guests

Eighth grade students at IDEA North Mission make a presentation during a class Thursday with guest teacher Brenda Enriquez of the Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce. (Courtesy photo)

MISSION — Eighth graders practiced their “soft skills” by developing solutions to issues and presenting them to their class and were helped along by a local businesswoman at IDEA North Mission.

Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce CEO Brenda Enriquez relayed the importance of communication and presentation, in addition to having strong ideas and knowledge with an emphasis on science related fields. Enriquez acted as a guest teacher for a class period Thursday as part of Teach for America Week, in which local professionals lectured, offered advice and shared their passion with students.

Teach for America is an organization where teachers commit two years teaching students in a low-income area.

Science, technology, engineering and math or STEM, have strong prospects for achieving a job toward higher socioeconomic status. These fields including many other professions require finding a solution, she said. It’s important to foster a “growth mindset” where people are actively trying to find solutions to the problems.

Although a person has the intelligence and knowledge in their field, they may not always have the “soft skills” or ability to work with others.

“You not only have to have the talent but you need to be able to present it,” Enriquez said.

Enriquez said after speaking with industry partners in the science-based fields, there is a demand or room for improvement in social skills. She said employers are looking for students who also have these skills in communicating and collaborative ability.

As she engaged with the biology class, students spoke about their aspirations toward dentistry, medicine and other science-related fields.

The students broke into small groups, addressing topics of working toward a healthy or educated community. The students followed Enriquez’s words to practicing presentation as they found the “ingredients” toward building these communities and brainstormed solutions to put it into practice.

Moving tables together, writing down ideas and speaking to one another were all part of the process toward showcasing their collaborative minds.

Enriquez walked around the room, offering encouragement and helping the conversations move forward.

In higher levels of education or in the workforce, collaboration is a necessary step, she said.

“It gets to the point where you are working with other people, because everyone here has different views in life… but I might have an idea or you might have an idea that I never thought about,” Enriquez said.

People can benefit from sharing different ideas, she said.

Students presented their findings of working toward an educated community through creating more libraries, outreach and raising funds. For a healthy community, groups suggested accessible mental health and awareness of physical fitness and good diet.

Biology teacher Elias Arellano said he hoped the students see the value of collaborating and how it generated the amount of ideas they brought to the table by working together.

“I hope they really see that because the group work and brainstorming really showed in their presentations,” Arellano said after the guest lecture.

Enriquez said she wanted to give back to the community and foster a mindset where they are looking toward finding solutions to problems.

“So we got to make sure we stay relevant and in anything that they do in life, it’s always good to have a growth mindset, because there’s always a solution,” Enriquez said.