New Orleans Startup Venture Receives $300,000 to Expand High School Student Apprenticeships
New Orleans, LA (February 22, 2016) – During a weekend home build in the upper 9th Ward on Saturday, February 20, 2016, unCommon Construction (uCC) received a check for $300,000 from philanthropists Brook and Pam Smith to help further the work, mission and growth of the nonprofit.
“In the last year, we’ve developed unCommon Construction from an idea into a thoughtful and reliable program with help from accelerators 4.0 Schools and Propeller. Up to this point, we’ve been able to remove the up-front cost of construction by partnering with our friends at New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity. Through the generosity of Brook and Pam Smith, we will be able to take unCommon Construction’s growth, impact and financial sustainability to the next level by building a house to sell in the market,” said uCC Executive Director, Aaron Frumin. “Brook and Pam saw unCommon Construction’s potential early, and are making it possible for us to apply everything we’ve learned over our last year to achieve long-term financial sustainability. We are extremely grateful for their investment in our organization and looking forward to the additional opportunities it will create for our apprentices.”
Kentucky native, Brook Smith, met Frumin in a typical New Orleans fashion – in a dive bar off of Bourbon Street. After hearing more about Frumin’s passion for using construction as a teaching tool for the students he serves, Brook and his wife Pam saw the connection to the workforce shortage and the need for more real-world learning opportunities. They immediately committed to getting involved with uCC in a meaningful way.
“From my wife Pam’s perspective, as a prior primary educator, her interest in unCommon Construction centers around the curiosity of applying innovative approaches to teaching outside the classroom, with the real world being the ultimate classroom,” said Smith. “Both of us are thankful to be in a position to provide a significant funding source for unCommon Construction. It’s really more of a responsibility from our perspective. When something like unCommon Construction crosses your path – whether it be on Bourbon Street or Main Street – in whatever way you’re capable, support it with both your means and your time, while also involving your family and friends. We’re the thankful ones for this great opportunity to support the innovator that is unCommon Construction. We clearly see the scalability of this organization beyond its start in the great city of New Orleans.”
Founded in early 2015 by construction connoisseur, Aaron Frumin, uCC is a nonprofit that caters to a unique need in New Orleans by equipping high school students with the kind of hands on exposure and experience that are transferrable to the college or career path of their choice. Through this selective program, students from four different high schools come together for after-school and weekend sessions to build a house form start to finish over the course a semester; all while earning hourly pay, high school credit and developing transferrable job skills and personal development.
“We’re building unCommon Construction because of the obvious need for it. Statistics show that Career Technical Education students graduate at a higher rate, are more likely to continue their education and are better prepared to enter the workforce. In fact, 81% of high school dropouts say that relevant, real world learning opportunities would have kept them in school,” said Frumin. “What I loved about working at Habitat was teaching people, so I became a teacher with Teach for America. But what I hated about being a teacher were the walls of my classroom, so we created a classroom that didn’t have walls at unCommon Construction; instead, our kids build them on the first day of school.’”
According Aisha Holmes, a uCC apprentice and senior at International High School, “The unCommon Construction experience taught me how I have to do my part and be reliable to my team. It has caused many opportunities and experiences that I will never forget.”
To help more high school students get technical skills training through uCC, visit www.uncommonconstruction.org/donate. For more information about uCC, visit www.uncommonconstruction.org and follow the action on Facebook,Twitter and Instagram.