American Graduate Day 2017 features local mentorship story
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Mary Stewart (left) and Sarai Martinez (right)

A local story will appear during this weekend’s AMERICAN GRADUATE DAY 2017 broadcast. AMERICAN GRADUATE DAY is the on-air component of American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, public media’s long-term commitment to supporting community-based solutions to help keep youth on the track to a high school diploma and beyond. 

Supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), more than 128 public radio and television stations have joined forces with more than 1,700 partners and at-risk schools across 48 states and one territory. 

The local story features Mary Stewart, a civil engineer who has mentored for the ACE Mentor Program for 11 years, and this past spring was competitively selected as one of ACE’s Outstanding Mentors, and Sarai Martinez, a college student from an underserved immigrant family. Stewart has mentored Martinez through high school and into a college program for construction management. Martinez is the first person in her family to attend college.

KLRN chatted with Stewart and Martinez before they jetted off to New York City to attend the live broadcast of AMERICAN GRADUATE DAY 2017.


How did each of you become involved in the ACE Mentor Program? Mary, how many students have you mentored since you began?

Mary Stewart: I got involved with ACE when I first started at Civil Engineering Consultants (CEC). Since I was new to the city, it was a great way to meet people in my industry and to give back especially since I didn’t have this type of program when I was in high school and wished I did. I have mentored over 100 students through ACE.

Sarai Martinez: My architecture teacher, Mr. David Garcia, was the one who introduced me into the program. I wanted to learn more about what my future could be and so I stayed in the program for three years.

Sarai, what have been some words of advice Mary has provided you that have changed your way of thinking when it comes in terms of working in a male-dominated field?

SM: I think Mary’s presence had a greater impact in my life. It has shown me that women are capable of being in a male-dominate field. Her leadership in the program and her knowledge in the engineering field motivated me to continue my education and also encouraged me to be strong.

Mary, did you have a mentor when you started in this field, or was there anyone you sought advice from during your early days in your career?

MS: I didn’t have a mentor when I started my career. I do give a lot of credit to my team members at CEC who I sought advice throughout my career and continue to do so.

What has been the best takeaway from participating in the ACE Mentor Program?

MS: The best takeaway from ACE is knowing I’m making a difference. Students I’ve worked with through ACE seem to get an advantage on understanding their career choices and the professional world. Also, a lot of these students are first generation high school graduates; knowing that I can influence them to continue their education and they are capable of achieving a college education makes it worth it.   

SM: As a student, ACE allowed me to explore fields before deciding what I wanted to major in at college. The skills that I learned while putting a project together and working with others was one of the best takeaways from the mentoring program.

What are some words of advice for young people entering the architecture, engineering and construction industry field?

MS: As you enter the A-E-C field, you will learn so much from the people you meet and work with; don’t take it for granted, take advantage of it and the resources given to you.  Keep in mind you will work with all different types of people. Also, don’t let anyone tell you, “You can’t do it.”  Anything is possible, you just have to make it happen.

SM: My advice to young people will be to stay focused and to never give up on their goals regardless of color, religion, background or gender. I would also encourage all young kids to explore their career options while in high school before choosing a major - choose the field that fits you best and that you’re going love.

AMERICAN GRADUATE DAY 2017 airs on Sunday, October 15 at 1 p.m. on KLRN.