Mentoring comes full circle at Fairhope firm

By Mary Hood
Fairhope Courier Intern
Posted 7/4/07

Walt Bolton is passing on a gift he received years ago: the gift of mentoring.

Bolton, president and CEO of BES Inc., was mentored years ago by his high school art teacher.

“She’s this absolutely wonderful woman, and she really empowered …

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Mentoring comes full circle at Fairhope firm


Walt Bolton is passing on a gift he received years ago: the gift of mentoring.

Bolton, president and CEO of BES Inc., was mentored years ago by his high school art teacher.

“She’s this absolutely wonderful woman, and she really empowered all of her students to do anything that they wanted to do,” Bolton said.

Without him knowing it, he said, his teacher filled out an application to Savannah College of Art and Design and got him a scholarship. Though he chose to go elsewhere, the impression that it made lasted.

“She was a remarkable person, and I always wanted to emulate her involvement with people,” Bolton said.

This is why Bolton now takes on interns at his firm, a company that does architecture, surveying, construction and engineering.

The interns gain on-the-job experience that benefits them in choosing their career path, Bolton said.

“The main reason (that he mentors) is that young people have such a tough time distinguishing what they’re going to do with their lives and what (vocation) they’re going to go in,” Bolton said.

If students go to college and get their degree, and then go to work and discover they dislike it, it was a huge disservice to them, he added.

“I do this to give everybody an opportunity to see the realities of being an architect, an engineer, a contractor, a surveyor, because it’s not all glamorous,” Bolton said.

Bo Tucker, one of Bolton’s interns and a rising senior at Auburn University, is a good example of what Bolton is trying to accomplish, Bolton said.

“Bo’s really a prototypical student that we like to get because he’s working each summer, and at the end of this summer, he’ll go back for his senior year, and he’ll take classes specific to his career goals,” Bolton said,

Tucker said he is thankful for this opportunity and utilizes it to the highest degree.

“I appreciate the opportunity that I’ve been given so I really listen to (Walt) as far as what I need to concentrate on in school and things like that,” Tucker said.

The other benefit from interning at BES is that it helps narrow career goals that could lead to full-time employment at the firm.

Bolton said Tucker is “an ideal example of somebody that comes in, works hard, learns a skill here at the company and then comes to work.

“That’s really what the program is about,” he added, “developing young architects and engineers and contractors that want to come to work here and have a career here.”

Bolton said he enjoys helping out the locals. Anna D’Olive, another intern, is from Fairhope and started interning toward the end of her high school career.

“Anna, she’s a perfect example. “She’s from here, she can stay here, she does a great job, she can stay as long as she wants.”

D’Olive met Bolton through Nancy Raia, ABC Director at the Eastern Shore Art Center.

Raia had asked Bolton if he would sponsor a hurricane art show they were having. He agreed, and while there became interested in some of the students’ art work, Raia said. D’Olive, who had been working an a piece with Raia, was one of them.

“I met him that way and a year and a half later, I finally got an interview, and I’ve been here since,” D’Olive said.

During her time at BES, she’s changed her mind on her concentration several times.

“I came here empty-handed, no skills at all, and I just played around with different programs and found one that I really like,” D’Olive said.

Bolton said she started as an intern then moved to a graphic designer, and now she’s pursuing structural engineering.

Anna Rosales also tapped in to Raia’s networking and has just begun her internship at BES.

“I was talking to (Raia) about my interests and she said she knew somebody I could intern with,” Rosales said.

Rosales is interested in marketing and has been interning for three weeks.

She will be a senior in high school next year, and she said it’s beneficial for her to be gaining experience already.

“I’m going to be a senior, so I’m going to be having to make all these decisions, applying to college and figuring out what I want to do; so this really helps me out,” Rosales said.

Tucker said that without this experience he would not have the leg up he has now.

“I wouldn’t have any direction at all,” Tucker said. “I feel like when summer’s over, my friends will have internships but they end up spending one year at one spot or one year at the next. They learn a little bit of everything, but I feel like I can a learn a lot of everything that this company has to offer.”

Raia said she keeps her eyes and ears open for potential students to recommend the internship to. She realized this after the hurricane art show he sponsored.

“It kind of impacted me because I thought he’s someone that cares about students of the community,” Raia said. “Walt has proven to be a tried and true friend of kids.”

In addition to getting on-the-job experience, the interns are also given homework by Bolton, and at the end of the summer, they turn in a report.

“They give me a report at the end of their intern time about what they’ve learned and about what their summary is of what they’re going to do and they have goals,” Bolton said.

The interns also work on specific projects, he said. The first project they will work on is creating a bar code on a piece of canvass. They’ll pick colors, come up with the binary number system and determine the widths of the bars.

“It’s a neat little project, and it’s going to be a piece of art we’re going to hang in the office,” Bolton said.

The other project is painting an old dump truck.

“Where the bed is, they’ll paint fun stuff on the side of the truck that makes it look like there’s stuff inside the bed,” Bolton said.

In the end, Bolton said, everyone benefits.

“We get a service because we get great, young, smart talented people to add to the company, but also they receive a service because they get to find out what they want to do with their career, which avenues they want to go down,” Bolton said.