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Meet Jayne Schnaars, Volunteer of the Month for May
May 28, 2014
When Jayne Schnaars came to A-B Tech looking for a volunteer role the program where she would eventually take root had yet to be created. Her career has exemplified her high degree of effectiveness, knowledge and commitment to assuring women stand out in the field of advanced technology. So, Schnaars was one of the first called to participate in a new support system for students through the volunteer services office where selected volunteers were asked to mentor students showing promise, but who lacked the skills to successfully navigate the college setting.
Most of her aerospace background has involved proposing the development and launch of new space systems with an emphasis on international teaming agreements. As a mentor for two A-B Tech students, Schnaars draws from her own college experiences and proficiencies in engineering to raise the level of her mentees’ aspirations. “Jane is truly an amazing person and I am so happy that she is in my life. Our relationship is strong, loving, supportive, never-ending and amazingly wonderful,” says mentee Ryan Smith, computer business technologies student. “She truly cares and loves what she does. Jayne is special and very important to me and should be recognized for lending a helping hand to an upcoming woman in technology. She shared with me that it was hard but possible. She tells me I am a strong Native American woman who will lead by example and become the leader that I was destined to be. Jayne just helped me to believe in myself and helped me rediscover the courage and ambition that I already have.”
As the former Vice President of Business Development for Boeing’s Space Exploration Division, Schnaars was responsible for all aspects of strategic planning, marketing and new business pursuits for NASA and commercial customers. These included the Space Shuttle, International Space Station and the new CST-100 space capsule for future space exploration after the Shuttle retires.
This mouthful of accomplishments alone was somewhat awe inspiring for her first introduction to Smith and a second mentee, Felicia Proctor. As a mentor, would Schnaars’ lucrative occupation, successful early retirement with a comfortable lifestyle and strong drive act to intimidate the students placed in her charge? Ryan sees Schnaars as a “strong woman pioneer and trail blazer” and she is glad Schnaars is here to help her through her journey. “I give Jayne all the credit for reshaping my goals. She gave me the confidence and the encouragement I needed to feel secure in pursuing my education,” said Smith. Proctor echoes these sentiments and says, “Jayne worked to get where she is today. She understands the struggles that life can throw at you, but she also knows if you dig deep you can accomplish so much. Her encouragement and faith in me and my goals makes her a very special person.”
To say Schnaars is an inspiration to her mentees is an understatement. Her highly regarded background proved to encourage and propel the students’ assessment of themselves and their futures in a very positive and progressive direction. “She shared with me the difference a two and four-year education will bring. She just helped me to believe in myself and helped me rediscover the courage and ambition that I already have,” Smith proclaimed. For her, Schnaars is a caring and loving friend. She is there when Smith needs her. “She believes in me even when I don’t believe in myself sometimes,” said Smith. “Jane supports me in any and all decisions that I make. She helps me with resources that I might need. She is committed and involved in my future. She supports my decisions but also gives suggestions to best help me in what’s best for me and my family.”
Beyond appreciating that Schnaars was Boeing’s Division Director of Business Development for Combat Systems; site executive of the Boeing Huntington Beach, CA campus; vice president for Boeing Launch Services and that she served as the Division Director of Strategic Planning and Business Development for Boeing's NASA Systems division, her mentees can relate to her on a different level. Schnaars did it all on her own - without familial support, in spite of financial constraints and challenged with preconceived perceptions about women in male-dominated fields. “Just because I have a family and other things going on, doesn’t mean I have to limit myself in what my goals are,” stressed Smith. “I want to reach for that higher education and that higher pay bracket. I want to be able to provide for my family and give my son all that he needs and wants.”
For Proctor, a mentor “sounded like I had hit the jackpot.” She said. “Not only do the mentors know the ins and outs of college, but they also have real world experience that I could call upon.” Proctor’s goals were simply to get into college. It was a huge goal in her life that pushed her to get a GED, having never completed high school, she explained.
“I have grown a lot with the help of Jayne and the lovely women who run the mentor program. I now have several small goals that deal with college, grades and raising my standard of living. I have also been able to dig deep and find visionary goals. Eventually, I want to help push engineering and urban farming with aeroponics (hydroponics) in Asheville. I want to see more food available for impoverished and vulnerable people. I would love to see this initiative in place all around the world; however, changing lives in my community is a great first start,” says Proctor. “Jayne has been wonderful. She has always been there to help me shape a realistic idea of what to expect and how to deal with situations. She has constantly given me opportunities by setting me up with people in positions of knowledge.”
Proctor shares that her background is not geared towards constantly being on top of networking or obligations and that the shift to being responsible is hard for her. “Jane has helped me every step of the way in changing and adapting. She’s an amazing friend, and equally important mentor, who keeps me focused. I am extremely lucky to have someone like her to guide me on my path.”