Working with bricks and cement was long perceived to be a man's thing. Even the administration and planning sectors of the construction industry for years were exclusively male.
But a high school in Hialeah Gardens is helping put an end to that. The Latin Builders Association (LBA) Academy, a charter school, has more young women than men enrolled in studies programs tied to the construction industry. Programs vary from accounting and architecture to real estate.
Nathalie Orozco, a U.S. citizen of Colombian and Ecuadoran descent, decided to enroll in the academy three years ago. “I don't regret it. Now I dream of having my own company,” she said.
Orozco is now a senior at LBA Academy and works as an assistant bookkeeper at a small roofing company in Miami Gardens as part of her school training.
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Diana Mogollón, an LBA Academy senior who works in a small construction company owned by her Peru-born parents, said the school helps with the on-the-job-training by allowing students to leave school early.
Thalia Caro, 17, a Cuban who lives in Hialeah, said the opportunity to work helps the students to “learn how to interact better with other people, the responsibility of having a job, having money and being able to manage it.”
Caro, who has the highest grades of her class, added that LBA Academy also allowed her to afford business administration courses at Miami Dade College.
“This school not only helped to give me a good education but it pays for the classes to enroll in college, which drives up my grades even higher,” said Caro, who works at a small family-owned construction firm. She goes to classes at the school during the day, goes to college at night “and in the afternoon I work and … play volleyball and softball. Softball season just ended, and that's why I started to work,” she added.
At the high school, “I feel like it's family. I can always talk with the counselor, with the principal, and they guide me toward achieving my goals,” she added. “Sometimes I feel like it's a lot, but I know it prepares me well for life.”
LBA Academy has 65 female students and 55 male, said school Principal Jennifer Jaynes, who added that the school's staff is dedicated to guiding and training the students to achieve success in the labor market.
“Many of my girls are the first in their families to graduate from high school, and they have big dreams of getting important jobs, of graduating from university,” Jaynes said. “No matter where they came from.
“The community's response to a school with this type of focus has been very positive,” she added.
The LBA Academy will host an open house at its campus at 11093 NW 138th St., Suite 207, in Hialeah Gardens from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday for families interested in knowing more about its programs.
Follow Enrique Flor on Twitter @kikeflor