Affordable home becomes classroom for vocational students

Photos by Anna Bloxham

About a dozen Madison Park High School students donned hard hats at the site of an affordable, energy efficient two-family home that is being built in Roxbury to learn the dos and don’t when it comes to safety in the field of carpentry.

The event was organized by the Youthbuild Boston, a 27-year-old training institution, in conjunction with the Department of Neighborhood Development for the City of Boston and the New England Carpenters Training Fund.

Folks from Suffolk Construction and OSHA were on site to lead trainings on safety tips when using ladders, scaffolding and pumpjacks to work a building. Most of the attention was placed on fall prevention.

Those who participated were most excited about giving back to the Roxbury community since the development began back November 2016.

Mike Chavez, a project development manager for Youthbuild Boston, said this was the second time his organization partnered with the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI), a nonprofit community-based planning and organizing entity.

He said the project is geared towards housing residents who are looking to own their own units in the community.

“The people who move in here are really people who want to live in this neighborhood,” Chavez said. “It’s really about stabilizing the neighborhood and keeping people here. And so we work with [DSNI] to market the project, they help to find people who might be renting nearby or someone who owns.”

Marik Jean, a 19-year-old carpentry student from Dorchester, explained how he and his classmates worked with aspiring apprentices from Youthbuild Boston on this affordable project, which is scheduled to be completed in spring 2018.

“Everyone here basically had a part in it,” Jean said. “You get to learn new things all the time. I’m learning something new everyday so I appreciate the fact that I’m here and my friends are here and I’m able to build a house with them. I can look back at this and say I actually helped build this house. And I’m building something for my community so I’m excited about that.”

During the safety training day, participants from Madison Park and Youthbuild learned several different useful skills, from properly scaling a building to analyzing a worksite to know if it’s a safe.

Some of the basics, such as learning to put on a harness correctly, were not lost on students.

“A lot of this stuff it like really, really, really goes into effect when you’re actually working on the house,” 16-year-old Madison Park carpentry student Jamia Porter of Dorchester said. “When you’re up on that roof you’re going to want that, you’re going to want to know that you’re secure and you’re not going to fall off and fall down all the way to the ground … all of this just teaches you a lot, it just teaches you how to just grow; just shows you a lot of new things that you don’t know.”

“One of the leading causes of injury in construction is falling from heights,” said Martin Leik, regional safety director for Suffolk Construction. “There’s a lot of big projects going on in the region right now and with programs like this the emphasis now is training, is teaching these young individuals how to perform their jobs successfully but also safely … it’s really just setting that example, establishing a good, safe training programs and being able to offer a very skilled labor force for the job sites that we run.”

Jordan Frias

Jordan Frias is an editorial assistant at Boston Herald and a contributor of Spare Change News. He is vice president of the New England Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and a graduate of Northeastern University's School of Journalism.

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