November 13, 2017

Recent high school graduate Jessica Reynoso and DPR project manager Irma Jauregui might be at decidedly different stages in their professional lives–but they still have plenty in common. Both grew up in East Los Angeles. Both graduated from the same high school, albeit 20 years apart. Most importantly, they both share a strong determination to make a better life for themselves.  

This summer, their journeys intersected on a 73-acre corporate campus project in Irvine, California, where Jauregui is DPR’s project manager in charge of cost control and Reynoso recently completed an eight-week internship through the company’s new Build Up high school internship program.

A DPR Community Initiatives program, this year’s pilot internships offered four high schoolers the opportunity to work and learn on DPR jobsites. The goal: provide under-resourced yet highly qualified youth (rising juniors, seniors and May grads) interested in STEM careers with real-life professional experience, while exposing them to career paths in the construction industry–all under the guidance of a DPR mentor or mentor team.

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High schooler Jessica Reynoso completed an eight-week internship on a 73-acre corporate campus in Irvine, Calif. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

As Reynoso’s primary mentor, Jauregui was tasked with ensuring the teen worked on meaningful tasks, from helping with daily safety logs to creating a custom spreadsheet to assist with specific cost control issues that the team still uses today. Job shadowing allowed Reynoso to explore the different roles and technical skillsets that make up a team, and be exposed to what career paths were available to her.

Jauregui was happy to take on the role of mentor to Reynoso, as she herself never had anyone to guide her when she was younger. The reward? Seeing Jessica grow personally and professionally from the start of summer to the end, and knowing that she had a part in it.

“It was just a really good feeling to help someone have this opportunity to learn, and help them financially as they’re heading off to college,” Jauregui said. “Being able to impact someone at this level can be life-changing, career-changing.”

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Through the Build Up high school internship program, students interested in STEM careers gain real-life professional experience on a DPR jobsite. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Reynoso gained a newfound appreciation for the construction process and the amount of effort that is put into aspects such as precise scheduling and cost control to efficiently deliver reliable outcomes for our customers.

“The personal growth I experienced was learning how to schedule my time, effectively communicate with colleagues, listen to feedback and correct my errors the next time a similar situation occurs,” she said.

Austin Intern Anais Arechiga
A senior at Austin’s Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, Anais Arechiga learned about the internship opportunity through the local ACE Mentor program, where board member and DPR project manager Diego Negrete encouraged students to apply.

While there were plenty of solid applicants, Arechiga stood out. She shares a love of art with project executive Andrea Weisheimer, and even competes in art competitions. She spent the summer immersed on DPR’s Third + Shoal jobsite, a 29-story, 345,000-sq.-ft. Class-AA corporate office space in downtown Austin.

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Anais Arechiga spent the summer immersed on DPR’s Third + Shoal jobsite, a 29-story, 345,000-sq.-ft. Class-AA corporate office space in downtown Austin. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Under the guidance of Negrete and Weisheimer, Arechiga exceeded her team’s expectations and became a valuable contributor. Initially quiet and hesitant to ask questions, she developed confidence as she helped with RFIs and submittals to the point where she stopped asking what she should work on, and created her own projects.

“Anais is a super bright individual who really absorbed everything at a phenomenal rate,” said Negrete. “Whether she was walking around with a project engineer or superintendent, she never stopped asking ‘what is that?’ or ‘why are you doing that?’ She had a unique passion to learn as much as she could about everything around here.”

Arechiga said that her experience was highly positive from the outset.

“It was amazing to let it sink in that I would be working on a commercial high-rise, then later find I won the lottery with such an amazing team. I expected to have to try really hard establishing myself, but was greeted with open arms and supported by my team the entire way through.” she said. “With their support, I grew my confidence, responsibility, communication and assertiveness.”

Arechiga learned that construction is the balance between complex, technical skills and relationships, communication and teamwork–all the pieces need to operate in tandem, like a finely tuned machine, to prevent injury, improve efficiency and successfully deliver a project. She loved how every day was different, and her experiences this summer inspired her to consider pursuing civil engineering or geoengineering as a college major and career path–and her mentors Negrete and Weisheimer will be there with her every step of the way.