Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
Future engineers and transportation experts from Franklin Transportation Academy visit District 7 on Job Shadow Day

by  Maria Raptis
Issue Date: 03/2007

Students from Franklin Transportation Academy visit Caltrans for "Job Shadow Day" emphasizing lifelong learning.

District 7’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) office, coordinated by James Deno, hosted 32 Benjamin Franklin High School junior and senior class members, teachers and advisors from the Franklin Transportation Academy on Thursday, February 15 to visit Caltrans mentors, meet staff and ask questions about the freeways and future career opportunities.


Home of the Franklin Transportation Academy, Franklin Senior High School is located in Highland Park with a current enrollment of 3,275 students, 120 of whom are part of the Academy.  This State-funded program is designed to reach students who have shown an interest in technology and transportation. Caltrans District 7 has been involved with the program for six years.  The Academy connects a curriculum to the workplace and students by providing a more personal “school within a school” setting. Students engage in coursework that emphasizes teamwork, challenges of problem solving and lifelong learning.


Caltrans’ “Job Shadow Day” included an introduction overview and tour of the Wellness Center and the glass-bottom conference room, given by Jim Hammer, Deputy District Director of Administration; a conference room meeting and question-and-answer period with Deputy District Director Raja Mitwasi and a tour of the Transportation Management Center given by Osama Asaad, senior transportation engineer and Steve Holloway, transportation engineer. 


Mitwasi explained some of Caltrans’ responsibilities of maintaining the freeways and right of ways, signage, cleaning and keeping the roadways debris-free and the many ways Caltrans helps motorists get from here to there.  He touched on District 7’s Intelligent Transportation System, financing and funding, toll roads and partnerships with the California Highway Patrol, Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and being “good neighbors” to all communities.  The students asked interesting questions about eminent domain and graffiti, with a keen interest on the topic of possibly constructing underground and double-deck freeways in the future.


The students had lunch with their Caltrans mentors to learn about their jobs. The District 7 mentors who volunteer in this program are: Dawn Helou, Judy Pouncy, Michael C. Lum, Eric D. Chau, Mirna Dagher, Dina El-Tawansy, Maria D. Rodriguez, Rashid Ansarie, Khanh Q. Nguyen, Marcia Graves, Ada Osoy, Shahriar Yadegri, Shimelis Amare, Marco Ruano, Will Carpio, Arian Abrishami, Refugio Dominguez and Tirsit Kebede.


Mentor Khanh Nguyen, Project Engineer, received a thank-you note from the student he is mentoring, Astridd Cruz, who says, “I just want to thank you once again for your dedication and for your personal attention.  It was such a great experience to learn and to witness what your everyday job is like.  I personally want to thank you for teaching me and showing me everything I learned on that special day.  Thank you so much for lunch and I could honestly say this is an experience that I learned so much out of and an experience that I’m never going to forget.  Thank you for being such a great mentor! Hopefully we can meet again, and maybe this time I can invite you for lunch. Stay in touch! Sincerely, Astridd Cruz.”


In preparation for college and the workplace, during the first year, students meet with transportation professionals and tour facilities.  Second year Academy students are matched with business mentors and third year students are eligible for internships with the Academy’s business partners.  These partners are consulted on projects and curriculum content that relates to transportation for the program’s three technical classes.  Along with Caltrans, other major business partners are MTA, Northeast Trees, Hathaway Family Resource Center, Highland Park Historical Trust and Arroyo Arts Collective. 



Raja Mitwasi, Deputy District Director, gives an overview of Caltrans' responsibilities and enjoys the students' questions. Steve Holloway, Transportation Engineer, is in his natural environment when explaining the functions of the Transportation Management Center. The Transportation Management Center is always a visual favorite for all Caltrans visitors.