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Mentorship program brings experience full circle
By Sharon Luther-Minor on February 17, 2015
Bryan DeWaal (above right) grew up on the Southeast side of San Antonio and attended East Central High School. Seeing the CPS Energy power plants in the distance at Calaveras Lake, he was always curious how they worked.
“When I was presented with an opportunity to see firsthand through the Student Assistance for Education (SAFE) program, I jumped at it! The internship not only gave me exposure to the professional world”, said DeWaal, “it also came with a scholarship and a summer paycheck, which for a broke soon-to-be college student was very enticing.”
SAFE promotes interest in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — and business-related fields by providing scholarships, paid summer employment, mentoring and hands-on learning experiences.
Flash forward 11 years later. DeWaal is now an engineer at the very same power plant that piqued his interest in high school, completing his fifth year as a CPS Energy employee. He worked four years as an Operation and Maintenance Engineer at Calaveras prior to his current position as a Reliability Engineer in the Asset Management department.
He’s also come full circle and is part of the very mentorship program that helped him. He works with Danny Espinoza (above left), an East Central student who is in his second year of the SAFE program.
Prior to joining CPS Energy, DeWaal interned for six summers with the SAFE program — two during high school and all four summers in college.
When DeWaal started the SAFE program, he knew he wanted to be an engineer, but wasn’t sure what engineering profession he wanted to pursue.
“After working at the power plant and communicating with engineers of all disciplines, and seeing what type of work these engineers were doing, it helped me decide which discipline I wanted to pursue,” he said. “I learned that I enjoyed being a maintenance engineer rather than a design engineer, meaning I loved being in the field solving problems, not behind a desk designing equipment. Before participating in the program I thought I would enjoy the exact opposite. This alone helped me decide that when I graduated I wanted to work in some type of industry instead of at a design firm.”
While participating in the SAFE program, DeWaal also established a valuable professional network.
“During my tenure in the program I picked up a lot of contacts from work that I was able to call if I had trouble in any of my classes, which was very helpful. Working at the plants also helped me succeed in some of my higher level engineering classes like thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and heat transfer because the phenomena taught in these classes were something that I had a lot of exposure to from working in the plant.”
DeWaal graduated from Texas A&M University Kingsville with a BS in mechanical engineering.
“CPS Energy also did a lot for me during my college years and I figured if they take care of an intern that well, they must really take care of their full time employees.”
He became a mentor, he says, “because I know how much this program helped me in my college years and in my professional career, and I wanted to give somebody else that same opportunity.”
SAFE is open to students who are residents of San Antonio and whose home has a CPS Energy gas or electric account. The program is very competitive, and we always gets far more applicants than we can accept. Last year more than 100 students applied, 60 students were interviewed and six were selected to participate.
“Selection for participation in the program is based upon the student’s application, essay, personal interview, references and their ability to meet all program criteria,” said Karen Sanders, SAFE program coordinator.
For more information about the CPS Energy SAFE program visit www.cpsenergy.com.
Students interested in participating in the SAFE program should contact their high school counselor or apply online. Application deadline for the 2015 SAFE Program is March 17, 2015. Apply online.