With approval form a teacher or club leader, GeoMentors can work with youth as well as adults. GIS professional Doug Miller, city planner at Hillsboro, Ore., helps youth work on a tree inventory.
Esri With approval form a teacher or club leader, GeoMentors can work with youth as well as adults. GIS professional Doug Miller, city planner at Hillsboro, Ore., helps youth work on a tree inventory.

Geographic information system (GIS) provider Esri is giving GIS users a chance to give back to their communities by mentoring students at local schools throughout the nation.

President Obama recently announced his ConnectED Initiative, a program that supports digital learning in the nation’s schools. Esri responded by donating its ArcGIS online software to every U.S. school, whether private or public. The technology provides users with geographic data that enables students to analyze maps. To help educators and students master the GIS software, Esri also developed its GeoMentor program. All the company needs now is mentors.

“This mentor program is an effort to hook up the GIS user community with local schools to help students engage in this technology,” says Charles Fitzpatrick, education manager at Esri.

Volunteers needed

According to Fitzpatrick, only 600 schools are active within the program. Esri is eager to triple that number by creating awareness that mentoring is a significant component to the program’s success. A GeoMentor can be anyone who uses GIS frequently, including city and regional planners, local government workers, and utility industry workers.

“GIS users are everywhere. They come from all walks of life. However, GeoMentors are often GIS consultants or practitioners in government or businesses,” says Fitzpatrick.

Next page: A teacher’s perspective