Friday, January 13, 2012

Make yourself at home...the green way!

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Hilda is one of the program's most recent grads!
Is concrete flooring environmentally friendly? Are formaldehyde-treated products safe for your home? And what’s the deal with Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)?

If you’re aiming for a greener lifestyle, these are some important questions...and the recent graduates from our Spanish Catholic Center’s Green Construction Training Program have all the answers for you! 

The program, which runs for 12 weeks, gives its students a basic foundation of understanding in all aspects of construction, and specializes in how to build energy efficient and sustainable construction. The goal of the program is give immigrants, especially in the Hispanic community, employable skill sets that will help them land jobs improving the community.

Jaime Marcello Ortiz, a recent graduate of the program, has already secured a construction job that will begin next week. A native of Ecuador, he came to the United States to work with his father as a salesman nine years ago, but never felt satisfied with this career.

On-site training is an essential part of
the Green Construction Training Program.

“I wanted to do something else. I wanted to change my life. And for me, as a salesman, I’d never change my life,” he said.

Jaime’s aunt runs a construction business, but she said she couldn’t hire him because he had no knowledge in the field. “I didn’t even know how to use a screwdriver,” Jaime admitted. Now, he’s prepared to join his aunt’s business, applying all he’s learned from the Green Construction Training Program.   

As part of the class, Jaime and his fellow classmates even had the opportunity to hear presentations from David Johnston, a pioneer of green construction in the United States. David has become a regular lecturer for the program, sharing his 30-plus years of experience in the field. “David is a great teacher, very passionate, and what I like most is that he keeps the class interesting and lets you give your opinion,” Jaime said.

We got to sit in on the class during one of David’s lectures and couldn’t believe how approachable he made the material. He used hands-on (and sometimes pretty funny!) examples to back theoretical concepts, like describing how one party full of women wearing high heels could puncture laminate flooring beyond repair.
The students were eager to participate in David’s lecture and volunteer their insights. When the session ended, the class even broke out into applause to thank David for his time, and several students asked him to sign their textbooks!

David (left, seated) signs textbooks for members of the class.
“This is like a gold mine for me,” said Hilda Addai, another recent graduate from the program. “I enjoyed all of it, because this class contains the most well-detailed information I’ve ever had about construction.”

Like Jaime, Hilda is an immigrant looking for a fresh start with a new career. She often shared what she knew about construction practices in her native country, Ghana. David really relished the multicultural angle he got from her and other students. “Everyone brings something of richness from his or her culture,” he said. The most recent group alone included students from Ecuador, Honduras, Sudan, Panama, Ethiopia, and more.

David’s wife, Elena, helps out with the class. She particularly admires the courage of the students who show up for the program. “Most are immigrants – and they had the courage to leave everything they knew in their home to start over.  And man, that’s hard!”

But as the class itself can testify, the education they receive from the Green Construction Training Program is well worth the challenge. Because the program does more than teach students about constructions – it allows them to feel positively about their ability to make a valuable contribution to their community. And that’s something you won’t find in any textbook.

More information about the Green Construction Training Program – including an informational video! – is available right here.
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The Spanish Catholic Center offers holistic services to immigrants from around the world.  
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