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  • Writer's pictureGreater Springfield Habitat for Humanity

Win-win: GSHFH receives grant that supports vocational skills training; Putnam students at job sites

Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity (GSHFH) has broadened its appeal and with recent funding from Stanley Black & Decker, the nonprofit organization is inspiring more people. The Connecticut-based tool and hardware manufacturer awarded GSHFH through its “Empower Makers” Global Impact Challenge, which supports vocational skills training and reskilling programs in the construction and manufacturing fields.

Violeta K. Melendez, a senior at Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy, tapes seams at the Springfield site to prepare the walls for painting.

Two students from Springfield’s Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy are benefitting from the challenge and are working at Greater Springfield Habitat build sites and learning about construction.

“Over the last several decades, vocational schools and careers in the trades have been overshadowed, despite the excellent, well-paying jobs and career paths they offer,” said Jim Loree, Stanley Black & Decker CEO. “Our goal is to recognize and advance those organizations that are working to create the skilled workers and tradespeople of the future that our society needs. For those workers displaced by the pandemic, especially women, people of color and veterans, we want to encourage them to trade up to a career in the trades.”

Seniors Violeta K. Melendez and Shirley Pinto came to GSHFH in January and work a one-week-on/one-week-off schedule. The young women spend a full week at school one week. The next week, they are at a build site daily from 7:30am to 3:30pm. They will rotate as such until the end of May.

Shirley Pinto, a senior at Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy, dips a paintbrush in white paint at a build site in Springfield.

“We’re happy to have forged a partnership with Greater Springfield Habitat with the possibility to grow the program in years to come,” said Victor Santos of the Putnam Cooperative Education office. “This opportunity offers students a hands-on education beyond the four walls of the school, plus it’s an opportunity to build relationships.”

Since their arrival, Violeta and Shirley have installed wood flooring, mudded and sanded dry wall in preparation for painting, and built cabinets.

“I actually thought we would just be building the house, as in the frame work,” said Violeta, 17. The Springfield resident said she hopes to stay with Habitat following graduation, join a union, and do a four-year apprenticeship.

Seventeen-year-old Shirley said she knows she’s not as experienced as the rest of the construction crew, but she enjoys being on the build site.

“This experience is [exceeding] my expectations,” she said. “I love learning new things and going back to school to show or tell my teachers what I’ve learned that they haven’t already taught us.”

Shirley said following graduation, she would like to move from Springfield to Florida and possibly join a union and study architecture.


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