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From mentees to mentors: The inspiring journeys of Stantec's ACE Mentor alumni

April 04, 2024

Employees that started as mentees in high school—learning about architecture, construction, and engineering careers—have now become mentors themselves

In the dynamic world of architecture, construction, and engineering, four individuals at the Company stand out as shining examples of dedication, talent, and the transformative power of mentorship. Meet the ACE Mentor Program alumni of Stantec: Allison Terranova, Cole Von Feldt, Alana Vidmar, and James Bonavita who share their journeys from high school mentees to accomplished professionals within our ranks.

Following National Mentor Month in February, we are spotlighting these individuals whose stories exemplify resilience, growth, and the unwavering commitment to paying it forward.

ACE Mentor Program (ACE) is a national mentoring program that introduces high school students to the diverse fields within the design and construction industry. Since 2009, we have actively participated in this program, offering guidance, support, and expertise to aspiring young professionals.

Allison Terranova, Cole Von Feldt, Alana Vidmar, and James Bonavita

Alisson Terranova, a structural engineering designer in our New York office, initially saw ACE being advertised in her high school. She became interested in the project we had planned and was welcomed by two civil engineers who were both women. Allison had a great experience with ACE and got to know many engineers in all different fields. “They all brought so much knowledge to our meetings,” Allison said. “They gave us advice on colleges, majors, and our careers. I took part in the structural engineering module since that was the most interesting to me. Chris Yorlano (Principal, NYC) was the head of the structural team and always kept us engaged—now I get to work with him here at Stantec.”

Allison is in her fifth year of working full time with Stantec but prior to that, she interned here for two summers. “At my college’s career fair, I saw a mentor at the Stantec table. They remembered me, which gave me a great opportunity to come back and intern at Stantec,” Allison said. “Knowing some familiar faces from ACE greatly helped me transition into the workforce here at. It felt like I had already found my place in the workforce—I knew that I wanted to work here full time.”

For ACE, Allison enjoys presenting to mentees about her experience as a student in the program. “I think ACE is a great program that sets up students for success not only in college, but in their careers. Whenever I hear a high school student talk about their interest in the engineering field, I always recommend that they check out ACE since it had such an impact on me.”

Cole Von Feldt, a building designer in our New York office, agrees with Allison’s sentiment. “I witnessed ACE help many of my peers solidify architecture or engineering as their majors in college, therefore impacting the rest of their lives,” Cole said. “For me, ACE opened my mind to the inner workings of the profession that I otherwise wouldn’t have been exposed to, and introduced me to Samantha Markham (Senior Associate, Texas) and Carter Moore (Senior Project Architect, Texas), whom I now view as professional mentors and lifelong friends.”

Cole got involved with ACE as a junior in high school after an evening information session led by Samantha and Carter. “I was accepted to the program and began later that semester,” Cole says. “The program included two site visits, lectures from various disciplines, and a group project that was developed over the course of the program. Each group presented their project at the final presentation night that parents, teachers, and friends attended, and the annual scholarship winners were announced.” In his senior year, Cole was awarded the Grand Prize Scholarship from our North Dallas ACE chapter which helped fund his education.

Cole interned with Stantec in 2020 and 2021 before starting a position here in June 2023. “Where I am now, professionally, is no doubt thanks to my involvement in ACE in 2016 and 2017, and my ongoing relationship with both Samantha and Carter,” Cole says. “Since I graduated from school May 2023, I leapt at the opportunity to become a mentor at ACE. It has been quite rewarding to interact with and teach the high schoolers about the profession that I care so deeply about.”

Alana Vidmar, a social scientist in our Seattle, Washington office, also jumped at the opportunity to be a mentor in 2023. “I found information to connect me with other mentors in the company so I could become a mentor. Our project this year is taking an unused church in Seattle and guiding students to design a “Library of the Future!” It is an awesome real-world application of several skills students will learn during the year. Personally, I’ve also had the opportunity as a mentor to meet folks at Stantec I would not have crossed paths with otherwise, as well as network with other professionals in similar fields in Seattle.”

Originally getting involved with ACE as a senior in high school, Alana said it sounded like a great opportunity for her as an aspiring architect. “Several of my classmates were doing ACE and by the end of the year, I received an ACE scholarship to study architecture,” Alana said. “I absolutely loved ACE! It was the highlight of my week each time we met. Together, our group designed a treehouse hotel. I visited the project site in my free time and did work outside of class time to help the group. I also met professionals who I could ask to shadow and for recommendation letters for college.”

“ACE really helped my confidence in public speaking and group facilitation, which are skills I used regularly here at Stantec,” Alana said. “I highly recommend joining ACE as a mentor. It is really rewarding and exciting to show students that there are so many fields and opportunities to explore. When I joined ACE as a student, I wanted to be an architect, and I had no idea there were so many other options for career paths.”

Like Alana, James Bonavita, a civil engineering designer in our New York office, knew what he was interested in engineering, but ACE showed him different paths he could choose. “ACE was very useful because it allowed me to gain exposure to several disciplines of engineering in a short time, right before starting college,” James says. “I enjoyed working with the mentors at Stantec on our project which was the construction of an Olympic stadium. I worked on the civil team and learned about various elements of site design. I enjoyed the program so much that I decided to pursue civil engineering at the University of Delaware.”

Due to the relationships he formed through ACE, James worked as a civil engineering intern at Stantec all four years of college during his summer and winter breaks. “All together, I have been working with Stantec for some part of 10 years and have been an ACE mentor all five years of my full-time career at Stantec.”

James says ACE is a fantastic program for any student interested in gaining insight into the professional world. “It can be overwhelming for a high school student to take a trip after school to a bustling workplace full of professionals,” James says. “But ACE does a good job of alleviating pressure, making the process of learning, and developing the design process enjoyable. In my five years as an ACE mentor, I have worked with students with a wide array of interests and aspirations. They have overwhelmingly expressed their positive opinions on the value of the program.”

We are proud to count these individuals among our team, each one a testament to the transformative impact of mentorship and the boundless potential of those who dare to dream big. Whether through formal mentorship programs like ACE or everyday acts of encouragement and support, each of us has the power to make a difference in the lives of aspiring young professionals.

Learn more about Community Engagement at Stantec.

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