In the classroom one day, on the job site the next.
On the evening of June 16, the seniors at the New England Laborers’/Cranston Public Schools Construction Career Academy experienced a life milestone: graduation from high school. That evening 25 students took hold of their diploma and walked off into the next chapter of their lives. For some, that chapter will be a post-secondary program or serving their country. For others, that next chapter will be heading right into the workforce, and for some, that first job came sooner than later as they took part in a historic renovation project right in their own city.
As the Cranston High School West auditorium undergoes its first renovation in its 54-year existence, the graduates from the NEL/CPS have found themselves jumping right into a job opportunity, less than one week from graduation.
The project began bright and early on the morning of June 22, and the NEL/CPS grads were on hand to put four years of education and training to work. Hard helmets on, bright yellow shirts and reflective vests dotting the auditorium space, the grads and their co-workers from the Laborers Union worked side-by-side, ripping out row after row of seating and pulling up carpeting. Sparks flew as tools, which had previously been used in the classroom lab setting, were now being used in the field.
The significance of this opportunity is not lost on Adam Lupino, Regional Policy Coordinator for the Laborers’ Union, who sees it going far beyond the manual labor being done.
“This is a natural fit for our NEL/CPS graduates,” he said. “It’s the first job they’re on, and they are able to give back to their community at the same time. This is where they live. It’s a place they care about and fulfills our union's commitment to community service.”
In fact, it was at the graduation ceremony that Chris Sabitoni, son of the school’s co-founder Armand Sabitoni, spoke of the many opportunities the students have had in their four years to give back to their community while learning the construction trade. This includes the work on the new front walkway at another Cranston public school, the Hugh B. Bain Middle School, and the upcoming job which would be taking place at Cranston West just one week later. In addition to the physical work being done, a collection of plastic bottle caps was being taken on the job site last week as waters were being consumed, each cap helping to defer the cost of a dialysis treatment for the child of someone connected to the project.
“We work hard to connect with the community on so many levels,” Lupino said. “We value giving back.”
According to Lupino, much of the instruction at the charter high school, which just hit its 15-year milestone, includes a focus is on building construction careers for the students.
“The school is a pathway for construction careers for our students and we are very proud of that,” he said. “Apprenticeship is the other four-year degree, where you can earn while you learn. We build things; roads, bridges and structures, but most importantly we build lives. These students are the newest members of our apprenticeship program with opportunity to build their skills on the way to a family supporting construction career."