More success stories at Robert Brown’s innovative construction co-op program, “Getting Ready for Life.”

More success stories at Robert Brown’s innovative construction co-op program, “Getting Ready for Life.”
SEE Life as a D & C blogger. The lost photos. And Common Wealth.


June 5, 2013

At the Robert Brown School of Construction and Design, education is paying dividends for city students.

On Tuesday, the “Get Ready for Life” program graduated eight student-workers upon completion of an eight week intensive construction co-op program.   Now in its fourth year, GRFL operates as a partnership between Unions and Businesses United in Construction (UNICON) and the Rochester City School District.  In addition,  GRFL received a $35,000 grant from the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency.

Superintendent Vargas accepting check from COMIDA with County Manager Maggie Brooks. Bob Brown, former business manager of local 453 and Dave Young, business manager of IBEW Local 86 in forefront

The essential thrust of GRFL is to deliver the missing requisites to students within the city district necessary for success in the world of construction and work, as well as to effectively create a pipeline of qualified, motivated individuals to fill the projected vacancies in the growing construction industry.

Union trained and certified tradesman work alongside the students—providing instruction and mentorship—in this fast-paced and rigorous program.  Together they build houses later reassembled and sold at market value throughout the city.   So far students have been prepared to hit the ground running as they exit high school and pursue their dreams.

Last year, program graduates entered a variety of tracks. One student immediately applied to the Carpenter’s local. He passed the entry test, scored well on the interview, and as soon as he turned 18 entered their apprenticeship. He now works for Manning Squires Hennig Co., Inc.  Another found a job with Tambe Electric, a local industry partner. Two students entered post-secondary education, one to SUNY Brockport and another to MCC.  Another graduate works with O’Connell Electric during the day and studies Electrical Engineering at MCC in the evening.  One graduating student began an internship with Habitat for Humanity.  And, this year two GRFL students have been nominated for a new annual $5,000 scholarship  UNICON is generously awarding to qualified consruction students to attend MCC or Alfred State.

Not just students find GRFL rewarding.   As RBHS teacher Jeremy Boehlke says, “By removing students from the four walls of a classroom, placing them in a real-world work environment, where the knowledge and skills they have learned now apply to their developing experience—student growth is inevitable. Seeing students be stretched, challenged, and respond with more energy and focus to succeed is where my job becomes a dream job.” To Boehlke, building the house has become a labor of love.

GRFL is also responding to a pressing community issue: the underrepresentation of minorities in the construction industry.  According to UNICON’s Executive Director, Kenneth Warren, “through the efforts of the Facilities Modernization Board, the Mayor’s Office and RCSD, it became clear that the need for people of color to work in the trades was going to be mandated,” for example in the Midtown project.  As Rochester progresses on this front, GRFL is answering the call.

The bottom line is GRFL is working.  It is economic development for neighborhoods at its most basic – jobs and career for city residents.


About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, and the CITY.  My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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