Creating a career path

Mentor program empowers under-resourced high school girls in the Huntsville area

AUM Foundation mentor meeting with a high school student.

Hannah Hoedl, a senior at New Hope High School in Alabama, meets weekly with Sydney Pfankuch, a Raytheon Missiles & Defense systems engineer and mentor in the AUM Foundation’s Pathway 2 Success program.

Eighteen-year-old Hannah Hoedl is smart, and she’s ambitious. 

She maintains a 4.1 GPA while working up to 30 hours a week at a part-time job. 

And she’s ready to take her next step in life – college.

“Everyone else believes in me. I believe in me. I can do this,” said Hoedl, who will be the first in her family to attend college.

Some of that confidence comes from Hoedl’s participation in a program called Pathway 2 Success, run by the AUM Foundation in Huntsville, Alabama. Through that program, Hoedl and about 40 qualifying high school senior girls in the area receive resources and mentoring to start them on a path to a college degree, a career and economic independence.

Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a Raytheon Technologies business, is partnering with the organization on the 10-month program.

“A lot of our outreach focuses on equipping the next generation to succeed,” said Natalie Lapacek-Trout, Raytheon Missiles & Defense corporate social responsibility manager for the company’s Huntsville sites. “Pathway 2 Success achieves this by empowering young women of all backgrounds to tap into their potential and make a real impact here in Huntsville and beyond.”

Aligned with Raytheon Technologies values to grow an inclusive workforce, the company has supported the effort over the last two years, providing laptops to all graduating cohorts. Female employees also share their experiences working in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics, collectively known as STEM, field.

Through the program, each girl receives a new laptop; a scholarship for up to $2,000; private American College Test, or ACT, tutoring; job shadowing opportunities; and up to two mentors. 

“Mentoring Hannah gives me hope about the strong women who are coming behind me in STEM,” said Sydney Pfankuch, a systems engineer at Raytheon Missiles & Defense, and mentor in the program. “We’re in male-dominated fields, and it’s great to see leaders like Hannah who will represent us.”

The pair meets weekly at a coffee shop, where Pfankuch encourages Hoedl to finish her senior year strong and provides guidance on preparing for college and maintaining a healthy work-life-school balance.

Participants also take part in monthly enrichment activities that cover topics like time management, budgeting, emotional intelligence, interviewing, etiquette, self-esteem and conflict resolution.

“Pathway 2 Success is preparing me for what’s ahead – college, career, my future,” Hoedl said. 

In the near-term, that means prepping to take the ACT a second time. Her original score of 24 put her in about the top 25 percent of students across the country, but she’s looking to do a little better.

“She (Pfankuch) reminded me that I could get more scholarships if I was just a point higher,” Hoedl said. 

Hoedl aspires to go into a science field, and she knows it’s within reach. 

With help from Pfankuch and other Huntsville women who donate their time and talents to Pathway 2 Success, girls in the program can see what success looks like, and it looks a lot like them.

“It’s boosted my confidence and helps me see that anything I want is possible,” Hoedl said. “My future is limitless.”

Published On: 12/14/2021