From mentee to mentor, Amanda Ngov is still learning…
Since she was in her teens, Amanda Ngov has been fortunate enough to attract the attention of mentors. “First, my teacher in seventh grade noticed that I was excelling in a drafting class even though all my friends hated it,” she says with a laugh.
“I didn’t even realize how much I enjoyed it until he suggested I look into engineering.”
Then, in high school, as she continued to do well in math and science and tech classes, a guidance counselor steered her in ACE’s direction. Once in the program, she encountered many mentors, all of whom “spoke so highly of their jobs and were really passionate and knowledgeable,” she continues. “I thought they were so cool. I really hoped I’d be like them one day.”
Now that she’s in the work world, she’s ready to return the favor. Not only has she raised her hand to become an ACE mentor, but she’s also started a new team in Chester County after approaching ACE Eastern PA Affiliate Director, Tiffany Millner, AIA, NOMA. Tiffany worked with Paul Joyce of the West Chester School district, who brought Henderson High School onboard. Next year, Ngov is looking to expand the Chester County team into two other area high schools.
“If I can inspire just one student and help them understand that if they want to enter the engineering or construction industry, they can do so, I’d be very happy,” she says. “I never knew about these fields; nobody in my family worked in them, so it’s important to give students the exposure and the opportunity. They need to know that there are people willing to help them.”
After participating in the ACE Mentor Program herself, Ngov breezed through a five-year civil engineering program at Drexel University and then collected a master’s degree with a concentration in structural engineering from Villanova University. She currently works at Louis Berger, a global engineering firm, in the power and energy sector for clients ranging from schools to national parks to utility companies. “I may spend day after day going out into the field and then weeks working on CAD,” she says.
In assembling a new ACE team, Ngov approached her co-workers, and also appealed to some friends she made through the ACE program who have landed jobs elsewhere. The Chester County team now includes a structural engineer who designs bridges, a geo-tech engineer, and an architect.
As it nears completion of its first year, the team — which includes about a dozen students — has grown comfortable with doing things a bit differently. “To make it easy for students to participate, we decided to have the professionals visit the school instead of the other way around, which is more typical,” Ngov explains. “Since that meant the mentors would have to leave work pretty early, we also pushed the start time back to 3:30.”
So far, keeping the students coming — in the face of other after-school activities like sports or work — has proven to be the biggest challenge, says Ngov. “We’ve turned that into an opportunity to discuss the importance of sticking things out, time management, and balancing responsibilities,” she adds. “Once everyone is together, though, it’s very easy to keep everyone’s attention, thanks to the great exercises that ACE provides.
“The students are very creative in how they tackle problems and come up with solutions,” Ngov concludes. “That’s my favorite part of participating as a mentor: knowing that I have the ability to inspire someone — and that I can learn from them, too!”
Written by JoAnn Greco