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Aera in the Community Jan 14, 2021

Aera employees help shape students’ futures amid COVID-19

As STEM cheerleaders, they guide 151 South High participants toward college and career opportunities

Aera’s Shawn Tremaine (light blue shirt) explains how a pumping unit works to a group of students from South High School’s MS3 program during an Academy Tour event held in February 2020.

Shawn Tremaine, a senior facilities engineer at Aera’s Belridge facility, calls himself a “cheerleader” for local students.

One of Aera’s 37 employee mentors supporting South High School’s prestigious MS3 program, he hopes to make a positive impact on the lives of local students – even when it’s done from a distance.

“We’re doing our best to help students keep a sense of normalcy and focus,” said Tremaine, who has been an MS3 mentor for more than five years. “When we come together once a month, we encourage students to think and talk about their future plans.”

Since its 1997 founding, Aera Energy has backed South High’s MS3 program. It’s designed to give students a broad exposure to careers and opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math while pairing them with Aera employee mentors.

“Most of our students come from impoverished backgrounds and don’t know any adults with a college degree besides their teachers,” said Stacey Fuentes, MS3 coordinator at the high school.

“The Aera mentors provide students with a broader perspective of the college and career opportunities available to them,” Fuentes added. “As a result, our students are better equipped to navigate college and graduate with skills that make them competitive in the workforce.”

With guidance from South High’s MS3 program and Aera employees, Xiomara Alcala plans to become a civil engineer.

Graduating seniors consistently attribute their high school success in large part to the mentoring program provided by Aera, noted Fuentes. Aside from several scholarships and internships awarded to students through the program, she says the mentoring program changes lives. 

“I am glad and thankful to be given the opportunity to receive mentoring from an engineer, someone I want to be like,” said Xiomara Alcala, a junior in the program. “Their experiences and stories have helped me in the steps I have to take now to get where I want to get in the future.”

Support from a distance

This year is no exception. Aera mentors will continue to virtually support the 151 students in the program – including 60 seniors –  until it’s safe for them to meet again in person.

“The projects make us think like engineers.”

Alcala, who is in her third year in the MS3 program, plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering when she goes to college – a decision shaped by working in teams on projects in the MS3 program.

“I learned to efficiently communicate ideas and brainstorm new ones when a plan failed,” she said. “The projects are made to make us think like engineers, which is why I want to pursue a career in the engineering field.”

Tremaine is encouraging students to stay motivated, so they’re on the right track when things go back to normal after the pandemic.

“You just never know, you might be able to help influence one of these kids,” he said, “and what if that student goes on to find a cure for cancer?”

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