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WTS Transportation YOU Youth Summit 2016


WTS-Boston Sends Pair to Experience the 2016 WTS Transportation YOU DC Summit

Written by Allison Sweeney, MBTA

WTS Transportation YOU Youth Summit

The 2016 WTS Transportation YOU DC Summit was held June 22-26 in Washington, DC.  WTS mentors and mentees were selected from WTS chapters across the U.S. to participate in this five-day intensive experience designed to provide high school-aged girls a broader exposure to careers in transportation.  The WTS Boston Chapter was represented by mentee and mentor pair Emma M. Heller and Allison Sweeney. Emma is a recent graduate of Milton High School and recipient of the WTS-Boston Transportation YOU scholarship. She will be attending Georgia Tech in the fall to study Civil Engineering. Allison is a Project Coordinator at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and WTS-Boston committee co-chair of the Mentoring Committee.

In total, 22 pairs of mentors and mentees joined WTS International (WTSI) President Marcia Ferranto, the WTSI Staff, and the Summit Committee, which included representatives of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Memphis.  The group was diverse in backgrounds and disciplines and were from all parts of the nation.  This entire group joined together for a chock-full schedule of technical tours and professional development sessions.  The group also had the opportunity to hear from a panel of current college students from the University of Denver and the University of San Diego.

Highlights of the Summit included a visit to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to gain an understanding of the agencies of the USDOT and to learn about the many modes of transportation the Department oversees.  The visit culminated with a panel discussion with representatives from the Federal Railroad Administration, Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, and the Federal Transit Administration.  

The group participated in several technical tours which included learning about Amtrak and the diverse careers available, ranging from Public Safety Officer in the K-9 unit and working as a front line Conductor.  Next the group traveled to the research and development labs at Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center.  The group learned about FHWA’s Human Factors Program and how it is conducting behavioral research that will facilitate the transition to driverless cars.

A key objective of the Summit was to provide the students a broader exposure to the many modes of transportation.  Specifically, all participants were posed the question, “How can technology and transportation work together to help create a more environmentally-friendly system for all?”  To facilitate this, Carnegie Mellon University organized a Challenge Project in which the mentees worked in groups and were assigned a case study of a passenger who needed to use transportation to get to and from work.  

At the event’s final dinner, mentees were presented with certificates of completion and heard from WTS President & CEO Marcia Ferranto.  She spoke about having passion in everything you do, finding out what makes you happy, and looking around to help other women.  


Marcia reminded the participants to “…only look down if you’re helping someone up.”

At the closing breakfast, Dr. Bryna Helfer, Director of Public Engagement at USDOT spoke to the group.  Dr. Helfer facilitated hands-on activities with the group to reinforce the need to work together to meet goals.  This was a wonderful closeout to the DC Summit.  As Allison Sweeney commented:  The Summit has left me inspired by working together with this dynamic group of intelligent women.  I look forward to hearing about these Mentees as they carve their career paths.

After returning, Emma commented “My experiences at the WTS Transportation YOU DC Summit opened my eyes to the multitude of opportunities available in the transportation industry.  From visiting the US DOT to the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center, it was inspiring hearing other woman's success stories and the challenges they faced as well.  The Summit did a wonderful job encouraging the other participating girls on the trip to get to know one another.  By the end of the first day, I felt at home with these girls who had the same interests and passion for learning as me.  This trip gave me the confidence to study engineering and pursue all my aspirations to improve transportation.  I'm thankful for the mentors I met, the skills I learned and the wonderful activities that the Summit provided me.  I look forward to being a member of the WTS organization for life.” 



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