Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
Students and mentors celebrate graduation day at the Arroyo Seco Academy at Franklin High School.

by  Jeanne Bonfilio
Issue Date: 08/2008

Caltrans mentors and students from Franklin High School celebrate graduation day.

Sponsored by the Equal Employment Opportunity Office, Caltrans has an active Adopt-A-School program in partnership with Franklin High School in Highland Park. Within the high school is the Arroro Seco Academy, formerly known as their Business Transportation Academy – and is open to all students who are interested in the business, economics or transportation fields. Currently, Caltrans has 33 mentor volunteers who take time from their busy work schedules to mentor, guide and assist these students. “Our goal is to give at-risk young adults career guidance, advice and a greater understanding of the workforce after graduation,” said James C. Deno, Program Coordinator and Franklin High School alum.

On June 25, the Adopt-A-School Senior Graduation Banquet was held at Porto’s Bakery in Glendale. At the ceremony Academy students were presented with a special graduation medallion -- and a $500 check was presented to Juan Cortez, this year’s Adopt-A-School scholarship winner.

District 7’s Adopt-A-School program has been in existence since 2001. It has grown over the years from a handful of mentors to almost 33 in 2008. Mentors are able to share their experience and knowledge – and mentees learn new skills and interact with transportation professionals. It is a win-win situation. “During our years of sponsorship, we have awarded five scholarships to students who have shown an interest in the transportation field,” added Deno. “We have raised the money by coordinating several book fairs at our site.”

The winner of the scholarship must meet certain qualifying criteria. The applicant must be a graduating senior who has actively participated in the Arroyo Seco Academy program; plans to pursue a career in the transportation, business or economics field by enrolling in a community college, trade school or a four-year college or university; must have a cumulative grade point average of 2.5 or better verified by the schools counselor; and must enroll as a full-time student (a minimum of 12 units per semester) in a community college, trade school, four-year college or university during the 2008 fall semester or quarter. In addition, the applicant must submit an essay. The mentors collectively select the scholarship winner.

Cortez’s winning essay was inspiring. "Regardless of the career I choose, improving the lives of others will ultimately be my guideline for a career choice,” it read. “Some career options include becoming an attorney, an electrical engineer or an urban planner. Whether I become involved in government or place myself within the field of engineering, I will ensure that my goal of improving the lives of others is met." 

Cortez also expressed his admiration for the Caltrans organization by stating, “With the leadership of Director Will Kempton, it is no surprise why Caltrans is first class when it comes to urban planning and community and highway development. Thanks to Caltrans, our highways have witnessed less traffic, our streets have experienced less congestion and our communities have taken advantage of the Metro public transit. Time and time again, the California Department of Transportation has verfied their status as experts when it comes to highway enhancement --the experience at Caltrans is something I will never forget."

Deno also went on to say that Yim Tam, Coordinator, Franklin High School Arroyo Seco Academy, said the students really enjoyed their visit to the Caltrans District Office Building for Job Shadow Day, when they are paired with a mentor at their job site to observe them during a regular work day. In addition to Deno, the mentors are: Dawn Helou, Judy Pouncy, Michael C. Lim, Eric D. Chau, Mirna Dagher, Maria D. Rodriguez, Rashid Ansarie, Khanh Q. Nguyen, Marcia Graves, Ada Osoy, Shahriar Yadegari, Marco Ruano, Will Carpio, Refugio Dominguez, Tirsit Kebede, Marvin J. Davis, Tahirih N. Smith, Oswald Elizondo, Zoe Yue, Reza Fateh, Mohammad Mohsenzadeh, Tin Dinh, Francisco B. Paras Jr., Kirk Cessna, Tara Tucker, Oji Kalu, Dale Benson, Iqbal Qazi, Robert Phan, Darryl Mays, Mary Guzman and Mike Dean.

“I would also like to thank each and every mentor who volunteered their time and shared their skills and knowledge again this year to make this program a success,” Deno added. “The Adopt-A-School Program would not be successful without everyone taking the time out of their busy work days to mentor these students. Though it may seem like a short time spent with the students, I believe it makes a big impact on their lives.”




Scholarship Winner Juan Cortez, left, is congratulated by James Deno, Program Coordinator (center)and mentor Rashid Ansarie from Construction (right). James Deno, right, thanks the mentors for their support and guidance; and the students for their participation in the special program. Graduates are presented with special medallions for completion of the program.