(One in a series of stories looking at ways in which NUSD strives to prepare students to be college and career ready, starting in early grades.)
Raj Preet is a success story now, six-figure income, flashy car, owner of a Natomas auto shop – but years ago, he was just like the Natomas High School students he spoke to Thursday (Nov. 2), a Nighthawk student himself, uncertain about the future.
Bertram Pinsky had a different career, different path, and different story to tell today: He was a longtime engineer who went back to school to become a teacher in his 50s. He recently was hired as lead Engineering teacher at Natomas High.
“Don’t let anybody ever kid you that you can’t succeed at whatever you want to do,” Pinsky told the students.
Preet and Pinsky were featured speakers in a college and career presentation, the second in a series, designed to inspire students by letting them meet, hear, and ask questions of working professionals in various fields. Today’s duo teamed up for two hour-long sessions.
“We want to offer a wide range of opportunities for students,” said Therese Collentine, a Special Education transition specialist who collaborated with Susana Hernandez, the school’s College and Career Coordinator, to schedule the talks. “It’s preparation for college and career.”
Preet was a big hit with the Nighthawk crowd, in fact, a handful of students gathered around him to ask questions long after his formal presentation ended. Before leaving Natomas High, he planned to visit the automotive class that inspired him years ago.
As part of his senior project at Natomas High, Preet said, he completed a senior project that involved working as an auto shop intern. “That really pushed me over the edge to know that’s what I wanted to do (in life),” he said.
Preet talked to students about his own career path: He attended American River College, honed his auto repair skills there, failed at his first business venture with his father, then parlayed hard work and strong customer word of mouth into six-figure success as owner of One Stop Smog & Auto Repair in Natomas. He recently opened a second business in the Rio Linda area.
Education is important, particularly in this age of computer electronics, but knowledge is not the sole thing Preet seeks in an employee. Willingness to learn in the field and to collaborate with co-workers is vital, he said. “A lot of times what the book tells you isn’t what you see in the field.”
Both Pinsky and Preet discussed pay ranges and job options in their fields of expertise. Engineering and auto repair offer numerous career possibilities – for example, there are civil, structural, chemical, mechanical, electrical and various other kinds of engineers. Auto shop employees can specialize in everything from customer service to tires replacement to engine repair.
“It’s not always about the money, it’s what you like to do,” Pinsky said of choosing a career.
After the hour-long session, students gave the presentations thumbs up.
“It showed me that you have to keep pushing, no matter what gets in your way,” said Sergio, 17.
“I really want to start my own business now,” said Nyjah, 16.
Khizer, 17, particularly enjoyed hearing from Preet, a Nighthawk success story who talked about attending Natomas Middle School and interviewing for a local MacDonald’s job many years ago. “I feel like I can relate to him more,” Khizer said.