High school seniors have been especially impacted throughout the pandemic. John O’Connell High School Building and Construction Trades instructor Chris Woods indicated that up to 50% of his senior class have missed significant time or have dropped out altogether. Many of the students have struggled with the virtual platform and the isolation. Swinerton’s Senior Project Engineer Dolores Aguirre and Assistant Project Manager Chris Gaitan from the 100% affordable 921 Howard Apartments team were “virtual” mentors to a group of students.
The John O’Connell High School Mentorship Program was an eight-week commitment to help students complete their Senior Capstone project. Through weekly meetings, the mentoring sessions helped students research, write, and present their projects. The Capstone is the most ambitious work that students are required to complete to graduate. Most of the meetings were one hour via Zoom. Mentors followed meeting agendas that guided their weekly interaction with the student mentee and had the liberty to engage in any helpful manner. This program helps students gain a greater appreciation for the workplace and to establish adult professional relationships. Additionally, it builds the confidence needed to move on to a career or college with more challenging academic work.
This program is a part of the school’s Career Technical Education (CTE) Pathways. CTE Pathways are high school programs that integrate student’s learning with real-world opportunities to increase motivation and achievement. They feature cross-curricular projects that expose the students to several career fields and academic topics with real-world hands-on learning. According to the California Center for College and Career, “Pathways that link learning with student interests and career preparation lead to higher graduation rates, increased college enrollments, and higher earning potential.”
Dolores comments, “while the pandemic has been hard on all of us, it has tremendously impacted students’ learning abilities. I am glad Swinerton was able to help and guide students that may be interested in construction through these tough times. While some may not participate or show their faces, they are interacting and listening to adult professionals. I believe these mentees will take our advice and tips for job searching, interviews, etc., past their graduation to one day work in the construction industry.”