Over the past three decades, the Education for Tomorrow Alliance has been shaping the next generation of Montgomery County’s workforce by cultivating relationships between students and local employers.
EFTA was founded in 1989 as a project of The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce, housed within the Houston Advanced Research Center. It later became its own nonprofit after receiving a grant through the National Science Foundation.
“Our mission is to cultivate partnerships that advance student success,” President Monica Bomkamp Enia said. “Our programs are all focused on career, leadership and [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] opportunities, and we do that by using those who are in the current workforce.”
The organization offers a variety of programming for students in Montgomery County, including those who attend Conroe, Montgomery, Willis and Magnolia ISDs as well as local private schools.
Since its inception, EFTA has offered a student internship program, in which high school seniors have the opportunity to apply for a two-week, 80-hour internship during the summer with EFTA community partners, such as Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center, the Huntsman Corporation and The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.
“We had one student who interned at Memorial Herman and got to sit in on a knee replacement surgery her first week and then see that same patient starting rehab in her second week,” Bomkamp Enia said. “For a student to have that kind of access is amazing.”
This year, EFTA was able to place 118 students in internship positions out of 149 applicants. With roughly 60 community partners ranging from small nonprofits to large corporations, Bomkamp Enia said EFTA hopes to gain more community partnerships to keep up with the growing student demand for internships in STEM.
“This year we had the most applicants for the program and placed the most students in internships than ever before,” Bomkamp Enia said. “We had about five available internships in chemical engineering, and about 50 applicants had that as their first choice, so there’s always a much greater demand than we’re able to meet in the STEM field.”
EFTA also spearheads the SCI://TECH Expo with CISD each year at the Lone Star Convention Center. With 13 competitions throughout January and February ranging from elementary to high school levels, SCI://TECH is the largest science fair in Texas, Bomkamp Enia said.
“SCI://TECH functions as the CISD districtwide science fair, and we typically have about 1,400 students participating on one day—Feb. 1—so we need about 400 judges just to help on that one day,” she said.
Over the years, EFTA has added new programs to its repertoire, including The Career Connections program, which is a monthly career panel for a select group of 10th- and 11th-graders in Conroe and Oak Ridge high schools. According to Bomkamp Enia, the group of students in the Career Connections program changes each semester, and each group meets four times throughout the semester during lunch.
“If I were to tell a 10th-grader, ‘Here’s a checklist of everything you need to know about careers,’ it can be overwhelming—especially if the student isn’t sure about what career path they want to take,” Bomkamp Enia said. “So this program is a really great opportunity for students to hear professionals share their personal stories and know that these polished professionals may not have always been polished professionals.”
Bomkamp Enia said she hopes to expand Career Connections to more high schools in the future.
EFTA’s Next Generation Leadership Program is a partnership with the Conroe/Lake Conroe Chamber of Commerce in which students get the chance to engage with community leaders and local decision-makers on a monthly basis to discuss a variety of topics from health care to higher education.
“This is our fourth year for the Next Generation Leadership Program, and we just accepted a class of 40 students from eight different schools in Montgomery County, so we’re really excited,” Bomkamp Enia said. “We have a great lineup of speakers, and then we’ll also do some personal assessments with the students to better understand their leadership strengths as well as mock interviews.”
On the junior high school level, EFTA also offers the Future Focus program, which is a classroom-based curriculum designed to promote positive decision-making among students.
Though EFTA’s programing has evolved over the years, its dedication to students has remained steadfast, Bomkamp Enia said. EfTA’s Program Director Corinne Coulter is a graduate of Conroe High School who participated in EFTA programming as a student in CISD.
“Through EFTA, you can have a lawyer sitting next to a chemical engineer sitting next to a marketing director who’s been through four different colleges versus no college and etc.,” Coulter said. “So I think it opens students’ eyes and enables them to see that not everyone is going to have a straight and narrow path to their end goal—there are different ways to get there and that’s okay. I know it’s something I wish I had more of in high school.”
With only one major fundraising event—a trivia night in August—Bomkamp Enia said EFTA relies heavily on the generosity of community partners, volunteers and donors to make their programming a reality.
“We are very lucky to live in an exceptionally generous community—that’s not lost on us,” Bomkamp Enia said. “I’ve always worked in education-related nonprofits, and I think this is just a really interesting organization that’s all about building relationships and providing opportunities that would not necessarily be there in our absence.”
3200 College Park Drive, Ste. E205, Conroe
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