While many students struggle to find a career path,
Excel Beyond 211 Dollars for Scholars® mentee Victoria (Ortiz) Magna realized in high school that she wanted to be an engineer. An internship last summer with Power Construction brought the 2014 graduate of James B. Conant High School one step closer to achieving her goal. More importantly, the internship led to an offer of a full-time job with the firm when she graduates next May.
Now a senior majoring in civil engineering at Bradley University, Peoria, Ill., Victoria is a member of the first group of EB 211 students. Her initial interest in engineering was sparked by Conant's "Project Lead the Way," which emphasizes engineering studies.
"I knew I was a math and science person," says Victoria. "I chose civil engineering because it was a little more general than some of the other specialties, and I liked structures and buildings."
Victoria applied for the internship at a job fair on Bradley's campus, where Power was recruiting candidates. The Rosemont-based company has an active internship program, emphasizes diversity in its recruiting efforts and supports other educational initiatives. Power partners with City Colleges of Chicago and other local community colleges to supplement the classroom learning with hands-on opportunities while providing full-time employment to students taking courses toward a college degree. As another commitment to education, Terry Graber, Power's CEO, is on the EB 211 advisory council.
Victoria interviewed for internships with several companies before choosing to become one of about 25 Power interns who worked with the company for three months last summer. One of the key factors in choosing Power was the opportunity to work with Power's VIP Group.
The VIP Group is a dedicated team of more than 30 professionals working on projects that are typically under $10 million. The projects often focus on interior build outs or work in occupied buildings. This work is faster paced than the larger construction projects that project engineer interns typically are assigned to.
"I worked on two projects from start to finish at Northwestern University," explains Victoria. "I had the opportunity to see more aspects of the work, which helped me make decisions about what direction to take my career."
Working with an assistant project manager, Victoria experienced everything from writing requests for information from suppliers and coordinating with project sub-contractors, to going through punch lists of remaining tasks and making sure they were properly completed.
"I learned a lot about working with a variety of people and how to gain their respect, even though they had more experience than me. I also found out how to solve some of the unexpected problems that you run into on a job site," says Victoria.
While translating classroom learning to real life experience was one of the major benefits of the internship, perhaps the most important factor for Victoria was helping her decide on a specific focus within civil engineering.
"I was trying to decide between working in design or the field," says Victoria. "I'm a people person who likes to see things come together, which happens on the job site. You don't see this as much on the design side."
Reflecting on the impact of EB 211, Victoria appreciates the guidance and scholarship help she received from EB 211. "I've always considered myself very independent, but having the opportunity to have a mentor through EB 211 to talk to throughout college was helpful and supportive."
Dorothy Ogurek, Victoria's mentor, confirms that she is a self-starter who has charted her own path. "Victoria has good instincts and great dedication. Every time I see her to discuss something, she's already done it," notes Dorothy. "She had several internship offers, so perhaps the biggest problem I helped her with was trying to decide which one to accept."
Choosing the Power internship not only helped Victoria make critical decisions about her career path, but also opened the door to starting her professional career next May.