Two volunteers from FI$Cal work as mentors for a highly regarded technology academy at Monterey Trail High School in Elk Grove, and both take great pride in helping the young students learn about the world.

Renee Lee works in the Information Technology Division, assisting departments with integrating their data into the FI$Cal system. Karl West works as a DGS partner, functioning as a liaison to ensure DGS core functions are implemented successfully in FI$Cal.

Each has a son enrolled in Monterey Trail’s Design and Technology Academy (DATA).

“I thought it was an excellent idea for students to be mentored by people in the community, especially ones in the tech field for which most are pursuing,” Karl says, adding that the most rewarding part of being a mentor is the communication he has with his two mentees.

“They ask very in-depth questions and their enthusiasm is contagious in that I find myself re-invigorated in my own career and began re-evaluating my own goals,” he says.

Renee also loves the communication with the one mentee she has this school year and relishes the chance to help her understand the world beyond high school.

“They want to hear what it’s like to be part of the workforce,” she says of the program’s participants. “Students are scared about certain things. They’re uneasy about the unknown. If you offer them reassurance, they’ll be OK.”

This is Renee’s third year as a mentor in the school’s program. She says it doesn’t require any particular tech expertise, as the questions students ask pertain more to university applications, career paths and situational work experience.

After an initial get-to-know-you session with students, mentors communicate via weekly emails, with students sending questions to their designated mentors throughout the school year.

“I was surprised by the self-awareness my mentees had in assessing their challenges,” Karl says. “They are very mature.”

The school’s DATA program has 370 students this school year. Unique to the Sacramento region, the program is sponsored by the California Department of Education and has been recognized for its exceptional student leadership program. It has three main strands: computer science, engineering and environmental architecture.

The acclaimed program was founded in 2004, and its mentors consist of volunteers from many of the Sacramento area’s top companies and government agencies.

More information about Monterey Trail’s Design and Technology Academy can be found on its website. If you are interested in becoming a mentor, please reach out to Renee Lee.

Students gather with teachers and mentors at a team event.