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RICK Hosts Its Biggest Shadow Day Yet & Celebrates Decades of Partnership with the San Diego MESA Alliance

RICK was honored to host another successful annual San Diego MESA Alliance (SDMA) Program Shadow Day at our San Diego office earlier this month. Twenty-two students from local high schools, community colleges, and universities shadowed RICK employees in a variety of our in-house departments, attended a RICK professional panel presentation, and more! RICK provided students from San Diego State University, Southwestern College, and Imperial Valley area high schools with practical applications for theoretical knowledge gained in the classroom to make informed decisions as they narrow in on their chosen fields.


RICK’s goal on Shadow Day is to champion undergraduate students by exposing them to projects done by our engineers, surveyors, planners, environmental scientists, and landscape architects. Leaders at RICK also share personal stories to encourage students on the path to achieving their academic goals.


“I was one of the lucky students who was able to attend Shadow Day at RICK . . . After yesterday, I am more excited than ever to pursue a future career in civil engineering.” —Carlos | Civil Engineering Student at San Diego State University


Shadow Day

On Thursday, after an introductory presentation, students received demonstrations with hands-on interactive elements from RICK’s surveying, mapping, 3D laser scanning, GIS, and geospatial services experts. During the lunch hour, the students listened intently as a panel of RICK women in leadership answered a series of questions about their careers; RICK’s Brooke Peterson, Teresa Wilkinson, Amy Quesenberry, and Alejandra Quesada shared lessons and challenges that influenced them to get to where they are today, along with personal highlights from their daily work lives.



“It’s really rewarding when I get to go to a job site to see what I’ve designed come to life.” —Alejandra Quesada | RICK Assistant Project Manager and Current MESA Industry Advisory Board Chairperson


Students then split off into smaller mentorship groups, pairing up with a RICK employee for a chance to ask questions and see examples of day-to-day tasks. They asked questions on topics anywhere from the pros and cons of working in cubicles to the difference between traffic and transportation engineering.


Participation in Shadow Day was gratifying for everyone involved; students were exposed to valuable, real-world information about their chosen fields of study, and RICK employees imparted lessons learned on their own career journeys. These retrospective experiences offer RICK leaders valuable professional growth skills, highlight their interpersonal abilities, and reinforce their commitment to creating a prosperous future for RICK and their own professional trajectories.


A Decades-Long Partnership

Along with hosting these truly bright young individuals, RICK feels privileged to celebrate decades of partnership with SDMA. SDMA is a statewide model for intersegmental regional collaboration in mathematics, engineering, and science education for historically underrepresented student populations. The MESA Program enables educationally disadvantaged students to graduate from four-year institutions with a math-based major by offering industry programs, such as Shadow Day, and mentorship from each region’s Industry Advisory Board.

RICK ardently supports diversifying the STEM workforce. For over 30 years, RICK has donated funds, resources, and time to MESA’s programs and hosted undergraduate, college-prep, and military veteran students on annual Shadow Days. Additionally, thanks to MESA’s efforts, RICK now proudly employs alumni from the MESA program and has opened doors to internship opportunities.


RICK employee and 15-year MESA Industry Advisory Board Member Carlos Avila is a MESA Program student alum. He remembers visiting project sites, such as the I-15 improvements through City Heights, seeing the design for SR-905 in Otay Mesa (his own backyard at the time), attending impactful shadow days, and visiting college fairs as a high school student. After joining the RICK team, Carlos was ecstatic to learn of RICK’s involvement with the program.

“I’m proud of RICK’s involvement with the organization. Back when I joined RICK, I felt extra committed as a new employee when I found out RICK was a MESA industry supporter.” —Carlos Avila | RICK Principal Project Engineer

At this year’s Shadow Day, Carlos mentored a student one-on-one and moderated the panel discussion.


Former Industry Advisory Board Chairperson Edgar Camerino also facilitated SDMA’s involvement at RICK for over 20 years. He sees incredible value in providing guidance to first-generation college students. It took him a while to decide which field of engineering to start his career in, because he didn’t have access to the kind of mentorship SDMA offers.


“When I found out what MESA does, I decided I wanted to help. A lot of MESA students are first-generation college attendees, and so was I. I wanted to help them get from point A to point B in a straighter line than I did; I wanted to make things easier for them.” —Edgar Camerino | RICK Principal


RICK looks forward to continuing its partnership with SDMA for years to come, working toward SDMA’s vision to see California’s STEM workforce reflect the diversity of its population and provide mentorship for the next generation of engineers. To learn more information about the MESA program, please visit the California MESA website.


Check out this video of RICK’s Shadow Day to see our mentors in action!