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Building Social Capital

New Springboard Fellowship program connects first-generation student and community mentor to ease transition from college to life after

From a young age, Adrianna Castro has been a kid who dreamed big, relentlessly sharing grandiose, pie-in-the-sky concepts with her parents, who - as good parents will - often punctuated their approving nods with a bit of tough love.

“They’d always say, ‘OK, well, you can’t always just have these brilliant ideas, then not do anything with them. You have to bring them to life’,” remembers Castro, the daughter of a schoolteacher and a police officer. “So, from the time I was a little girl, I’ve always liked the idea of having a vision then acting on that vision.”

As a first-generation college student who graduates in May, Castro currently is embracing what might be the opportunity of her young lifetime at Colorado Mesa University through its first-ever Springboard Fellowship, a program designed to help first-generation students build social capital, cultivate professional networks and transition confidently into life after college.

The fellowship, a collaboration between CMU and Fort Lewis College, might be helping Castro kick open an entryway to the management side of the construction industry, and perhaps put a few more cracks in the glass ceiling that still hovers over women.

“This is still predominately a male-dominated field. Right now, I’m the only female project manager (PM) at any construction company in the Grand Junction area, and the first they’ve ever had,” said Martie Swann, an employee of FCI Constructors Inc. since April 2022. “I also was a PM for 10 years in Phoenix, where female PMs are a bit more common.”

Swann was recruited by CMU as a mentor for the Springboard Fellowship, gave Castro a paid internship, and assigned her to gain hands-on experience at one of FCI’s major jobsites.

“We’re building two identical group homes for people in need of additional care at the Grand Junction Regional Center, a state project,” Castro said. “It’s really a good feeling, knowing I’m building something that will help others in the future.”

Each day is a new learning experience for Castro, who had no previous background in the construction industry prior to enrolling at CMU.

“When I started looking for a college, I thought I wanted to do architecture,” said Castro, whose older sister is a CMU alumnus. “Colorado Mesa didn’t offer that degree program, so I did a little detour into Construction Management, did well in those classes, and really enjoyed it.”

Swann assigned her intern and mentee to work 16 hours each week as a go-between for the architect and the project engineer, handing requests for information (RFIs) whenever the original plan is altered, and discrepancies need to be resolved.

“There’s a process in place to track any changes in a project, and for costs that go with those changes,” she said. “We have to issue a formal question to the architect, then get a formal response, before we can incorporate those changes. That’s what Adrianna is learning to do.”

A secondary part of Castro’s job is to process Change Order requests, notifying the owner of additional costs associated with any decision and requesting approval for those monies before the project can move forward. 

“There’s a lot of paperwork involved, and some people don’t enjoy that part, but I’m having fun. I really like going to work every day,” Castro said.

Castro’s fellowship also includes conferences and professional-development workshops in Grand Junction, Denver and Washington, D.C.

“I’m really looking forward to that,” she said. “I’ve never been there before.”

Upon completion of the program, Castro also will receive $5,000, which may be used for travel, wardrobe, living expenses or any other postgraduation needs.

“That’s a large sum of money for a college student – a way of getting back on your feet,” she said. “I’m going to appreciate it very much, and I’ll probably use it for first- and last-month rent payment, and maybe to pay off some college debt.”

Her greatest takeaway, though, has been the mentoring she has received from Swann.

“I applied for this fellowship because I wanted a mentor to answer questions about things you can’t learn in a classroom,” she said. “I’m now seeing how some of my education comes to play in a real-world situation, which naturally raises more questions that I need answered. Martie has been able to do that for me.”

Castro plans to go directly into the workforce after graduation. Swann says a position could be waiting if she chooses to work for FCI.  


Written by Dennis Taylor