October 23, 2019
In Delray Beach, FL, the City is working towards creating alignment of education with workforce needs, in an effort to retain talented workers and to prepare for future employment demands. With a desire to be a part of the strategic plan, DPR Construction teamed with the City and the Milagro Center to pilot the Girls Go Build program.
The seven-week program was developed to encourage girls to expand their math- and science-based learning, to increase their interest and enrollment in local technical high school programs and to shift attitudes about careers in technical trades. Through leading sessions and workshops, volunteers from the local DPR team worked with about 20 middle-school girls at the Milagro Center—hoping to inspire the next generation of Women Who Build to enter the construction industry.
"The Girls Go Build program would not have been possible without the support of the DPR staff," said Janet Meeks, education coordinator with Delray Beach. "The fact that DPR already had some hands-on, age appropriate activities that helped the girls understand the construction industry was awesome."
Lina Nageondelestang, who serves as project manager in DPR's Fort Lauderdale office, headed up the community initiative.
"We were excited to jump on board to help (the City and the Milagro Center) put together a curriculum for the summer pilot program and then lead several of the sessions," Nageondelestang commented.
DPR was directly in charge of four of the seven Girls Go Build sessions. They included:
- an introduction and overview session that included a marshmallow building activity (which "helped them learn the importance of creating a 'strong foundation,'" Meeks noted);
- a toolbox build session focused on safety and tools;
- a Chopper Tower session where the girls played a DPR-developed game introducing them to aspects of constructability;
- a graduation/bench building session in which volunteers helped the girls build several picnic tables that are now in use at the Milagro Center.
Each DPR-led session kicked off with a conversation about the path each of the volunteers took to get into the construction industry.
"I think opening their eyes to the potential career opportunities that there are in the industry was the most rewarding part," Nageondelestang said. "Letting them know that, as girls, they actually can do construction and not to be afraid of it just because they are female."
Having DPR women facilitate much of the programming made a big impact, according to Meeks.
"The middle-school girls could relate and see themselves taking on similar roles," Meeks said. "It's powerful to see minority women in management positions, and these girls were fascinated by the career stories."
For most of the Milagro Center girls who participated in the pilot program, Girls Go Build offered them their first up-close look at construction tools and methods, as well as an introduction to potential well-paying careers that many had never considered before.
Student Elavanise Louis-Juste said she was inspired by the innovative program.
"I originally wanted to become a nurse. I like taking care of people and my mom takes care of people in Haiti," she said. "But now I like construction because I can build houses in Haiti for people, and I can learn the techniques of what to do."
The City considered the program to be a success, achieving the goals it had laid out.
"The program accomplished our objectives by exposing girls to the many different career options in the construction trades," Meeks concluded. "The biggest success was that one of the girls was going to go into the medical choice program at Atlantic High School and changed that track to the construction academy."