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Mutual Benefits of Near-peer Mentoring in STEM Postsecondary and Career Development 

"This study investigates the effectiveness of near-peer mentoring in promoting STEM career aspirations, particularly for underrepresented students. Focusing on the STEM mentor internship course, led by the biology department at a private university in collaboration with a local public school, the research examines the experiences of undergraduate mentors and high school senior mentees, and the benefits and challenges to both participant groups. Key questions addressed include the influence of near-peer mentoring on career choices and personal development for both mentors and mentees, its impact on high school seniors' STEM post-secondary decisions, and post-high school transition considerations. The study also assesses how the program enhances undergraduate mentors' cultural responsiveness, leadership skills, and equity-promoting roles in STEM. Drawing from three years of qualitative data, including surveys, exit tickets, curricula, newsletters, and assignments, the findings provide insights into the significance of near-peer mentoring for shaping STEM education and career pathways. This study employed a qualitative method followed by a sentiment analysis in natural language processing to comprehensively capture the multifaceted outcomes of near-peer mentoring.

The results show that most responses from high school mentees and undergraduate mentors are overwhelmingly positive. Program materials effectively align with and address mentees' post-secondary career planning needs, dispelling common myths about studying and working in STEM fields and empowering individuals from traditionally marginalized backgrounds to pursue STEM careers. Undergraduate mentors develop social justice-oriented leadership, agency, and mindsets through newsletter drafting, mentoring sessions, and self-reflection. This holistic STEM mentoring program adds value to a holistic STEM education by engaging diverse communities. Further efforts need to focus on further strengthening virtual mentor-mentee collaboration and communication, specified mentoring for different sectors of STEM field, and collaboration with career centers and STEM professionals to provide more resources and practical experiences for both mentors and mentees."