Stories

ROBERT DANIEL

HBI Houston Electrical Program Graduate

Robert Daniel, a Houston native, describes himself as a “Curious George type of individual” who was always using his hands to sketch buildings, fix things in the garage and play the drums for his church. Prior to training with the Home Builders Institute (HBI), Robert attended a technical institute hoping it would provide more options for his future. However, the the tuition was too costly and Robert was unable to finish the degree.

“I was worried because I didn’t have money at the time to pay for school. When I heard from my cousin that the HBI program was free, I knew —here’s the opportunity. All I have to do is show up.”

Robert consistently arrived early to class and describes walking through the HBI doors as a transformative experience that could catapult him to a great career.

While finishing up his electrical training with HBI, Robert received job readiness preparation and placement support from HBI’s Houston staff. “The HBI staff helped connect me to employers. They helped me format my resume –I would never have experienced this kind of support at a technical college. The whole atmosphere at HBI was supportive and caring.”

Robert is now employed as an Assistant Superintendent at Otwell Construction in Houston and says he loves the work he does there. He and his wife have been married for ten years and they have two young sons. “With the skills that I’ve obtained through HBI, I could see starting my own company down the road,” says Robert.

“I came from a rough background. I want to show young guys that there are options for a better life. who would have thought you could go to school in this field for free?”

DENISHYA SIMMONS

FINDING SUCCESS AT TEXAS-BASED SKILLED TRADES PROGRAM

A licensed welder by trade, Houston resident Denishya
Simmons, 24, loves to be active, working hands-on with jobs
and projects.“I love to build things. I love to paint. I have to
keep moving. I can’t sit down all day to an office job.”

Living nearby to the Gulfton Career Center, Simmons often
drove past it, noticing the advertising for free training at the HBI
construction skilled trades program. And, one day, sheer curiosity
brought her into the center for a visit.

“I go in there and I meet Mr. Armando {Gomez}, the carpentry
instructor, and from there it just went up. It was an easy, fast
process and I started school.”

The construction program offers training in carpentry and
electrical. Instructors utilize the industry-recognized HBI PACT
(pre-apprenticeship certificate training) curriculum to engage
students in learning and applying theoretical and technical skills
to classroom and workshop projects. As a committed student with
a willingness to try something new, Simmons joined the program
hoping that the experience would benefit her career. She signed up
for classes in August 2021 and began training in carpentry.

“We learned how to read blueprints and how to use different tools,”
Simmons recalls. “We learned about different kinds of hammers,
drills, and saws. We learned how to drywall and frame doors.”
Workshop projects also involved improving the classroom setting.
“We rebuilt the walls of our classroom. We took down all the old
doors and put up more secure ones. We basically rebuilt the
whole class.”

“The things I’m doing at my job, the training I am getting at my job, I already learned from my training with HBI. Everything went hand in hand. I’m way ahead.”

She also acknowledges the support and encouragement she received from HBI staff. “Our instructor definitely knew what he was talking about. I liked that I could ask him any question. He was always hands- on in the process and he talked us through everything we needed to learn. And even with our career advisors, if we had any questions, they
were always on it.”

Simmons graduated from the HBI program in November 2021 with
certifications in OSHA-10 and the PACT curriculum. Soon after, she landed a position as a gas operator with CenterPoint Energy, an electric and natural gas utility company, headquartered in Houston.
“The things I’m doing at my job, the training I am getting at my
job, I already learned from my training with HBI,” she comments.
“Everything went hand in hand. I’m way ahead.”

As a gas operator, Simmons works with a ground crew that is tasked with finding and repairing gas leaks on residential and commercial properties. She is also the only woman on the crew.
“I love my job. I like the people that I’m working with. We all work hard, but guys can sometimes look down on a woman in a construction setting,” she says. “So, you have to show them that you can lift as much as them and you can work as hard as them. Whatever you can do, I can do too. You show you can get your hands dirty, they’ll respect you.”

With every opportunity Simmons undertakes, hard work, success, and reward have followed. She approaches every job with an enthusiastic zeal that compliments her professional demeanor. Her advice to other Houston residents thinking about joining an HBI program?

“There will always be a need for carpenters. They’re constantly building here in Texas. There will always be a need for electrical. We all need lights, you know. Employers will want people who have these trades under their belts. If you want to get into this field, makemoney and provide for your family, you have to work hard for it.”

“I love my job. I like the people that I’m working with. We all work hard, but guys can sometimes look down on a woman in a construction setting. So, you have to show them that you can lift as much as them and you can work as hard as them. Whatever you can do, I can do too. You show you can get your hands dirty, they’ll respect you.”

Ruben Ceballos

Lead Instructor HBI Electrical Program GRaduate, 2007

Ruben Ceballos enrolled in the HBI Electrical Program at the San
Diego Job Corps Center in September 2005. He was motivated
student, and a true leader as shop foreman. After graduating
in early 2007, Ruben was in a new job when the recession hit. “I
was one of a few people they didn’t lay off,” he said. “The skills
and discipline I learned from HBI made me invaluable to my
employer.”

Over the years, Ruben’s Job Corps instructor never forgot him.
In 2017, he chose Ruben as his replacement, based on Ruben’s
knowledge and amazing way with people. In 2019, Ruben joined
the Specialty Contractors Committee (SCC) of the Building
Industry Association of San Diego County. “Through my
connections within SCC, I help place my students in good-paying
jobs. No matter where I go, I put my students first.” Ruben now
owns an electrical contracting business and serves as the Chair of
the Safety and Health board for HBI.

Ruben is the winner of HBI’s 2021 Chairman’s Award for Overall
Excellence.

“The things I’m doing at my job, the training I am getting at my job, I already learned from my training with HBI. Everything went hand in hand. I’m way ahead.”

Daisy Martinez

Senior Service technician
HBI Facilities Maintenance Program GRaduate, 2019

In November 2018, Daisy Martinez had no construction skills when she entered the Facilities Maintenance Program at the Los Angeles Job Corps Center. But what she did have was courage and commitment. “I was determined to work in the maintenance facilities industry,” she said. “I was only 18 at the time, but I knew HBI could get me where I wanted to be.”

Daisy may be shy, but never shy about fulfilling important responsibilities to herself, co-workers and family. Today, Daisy is a senior service technician for a high-end apartment building. With a growing career ahead of her, she is now sole provider for her disabled brother and parents. “Together my family has overcome a lot. But I’ve worked hard for us and our future looks a lot brighter.”

Daisy is the winner of HBI’s 2021 Shirley McVay Wiseman Award for Exceptional Promise.

“Challenge yourself. You are never too young to do what you need to do.”

Jimmy Giles

Polk County, Florida Carpentry INstructor

Carpentry Instructor Jimmy Giles credits the HBI PACT Program, funded by The Home Depot Foundation through the Schools to Skills Grant Program, for helping positively change the carpentry program at Bartow High School. “Up until HBI, there was no curriculum for what I was teaching,” he said. “HBI really helped me take 14 years of classroom experience and wrap it up in a concise way to teach students the necessary skills in carpentry.”

Since using the program, he has seen tremendous growth among his students. “If we didn’t get The Home Depot Foundation grant in the beginning, my students would not be where they are today,” he said. “HBI PACT Program helps students learn new skills and apply them to build their future.”

“HBI’s program gives students the foundation for a better future.”

Frank Waller

Polk County, Florida Carpentry INstructor

Polk County Carpentry Instructor Frank Waller uses the HBI PACT Program curriculum in his classroom and found it to be an asset for his students. “It gives students an education in construction and interest in potential new job opportunities that they had not thought about,” he said. “They have hands-on experience they can use for the rest of their lives.”

The support and investment from HBI and The Home Depot Foundation through their Schools to Skills Grant Program is helping shape his student’s future. “They helped our program grow and it helps students see other people believing in the program and wanting them to be successful,” he said. “The material learned in the classroom helps students succeed outside of the classroom.”

“HBI’s program has made a lasting impact on my students.”

CYNTHIA COLUMNA

BuildStrong Academy of Orlando Graduate, 2021

As a military spouse, Cynthia Columna is used to adjusting to moves and new places. This inspired her to change direction in her own career by enrolling in the BuildStrong Academy. “I was completely green when I
started,” she says. “But now I have skills, a sense of purpose, and a community of people who want me to succeed.”


Cynthia is excited about the job opportunities that lie ahead and is energized to continue using her new-found knowledge both on the
job and as a homeowner. “Carpentry is the foundation, the path to any construction job I want,” Cynthia says. “When you have these skills, when you know how to do these things, you feel powerful!”

“I want to keep on building. Carpenters run the world.”

FREEDOM REIGN

BuildStrong Academy of Orlando Graduate, 2021

Freedom Reign dreams of building homes for her family, as well as transitional housing for those in need. “I needed a trades education
to help me accomplish these things,” she says. “The legacy we want to leave our children, our community, is closely tied to the
construction industry.”


Reign credits the Orlando Academy and HBI’s curriculum—which she points out was more in-depth than she expected—with creating
opportunities she never dreamed of. “There are so many things in this industry you can do and be successful at,” Freedom says. “I am living proof that this training is for everyone, regardless of your background, age, size, culture, whatever.”

“BuildStrong Academy is everything!”

JACKSON THRASHER

BuildStrong Academy of Orlando Graduate, 2021

At a young age, Jackson Thrasher lacked direction. “I knew I liked working with my hands and the BuildStrong Academy sounded like a good opportunity for me,” he says. Inspired by instructors who pushed him
to succeed, Jackson says, “They gave me confidence I never had and now I have a lot of options in this industry.”


Jackson sees trades training as the smarter path for him. “People go through four years of college and can’t find a job because they
don’t have experience,” he says. “I have a certificate that shows potential employers I didn’t just sit in a classroom, I went out and did the work!”

“Employers want to see experience. In just 12 weeks, I got that and more.”

HEATHER PRILL
Sr. Manager, Strategic Partnerships and Hometown Giving
The Home Depot Foundation

“THE SKILLED TRADES ARE A SOCIAL ISSUE.”

In 2018, The Home Depot Foundation launched its trades training program, and together with HBI, committed to training the next generation of skilled tradespeople. “The home building and improvement industry desperately needs skilled workers, and these jobs bring financial stability to people and communities in need,“ says Heather Prill, who manages the effort. Aligned with this vision, The Foundation and HBI created a trades training program for separating military service members. And with The Foundation’s support, HBI has expanded its training programs into high schools across the nation.

All of The Foundation’s work is done through non-profit partners. According to Prill, “Together with HBI we have trained nearly 1,200 service members and over 4,500 high school students. We’ve just scratched the surface, and HBI is the right partner to continue to move our shared mission forward.”



MARINA PEREZ
HVAC Service Technician
HBI HVAC Program Graduate, 2016

“I LIKE HELPING PEOPLE. I WANT TO INFLUENCE OTHERS AROUND ME TO DO THE RIGHT THING.”

Marina Perez worked two jobs while attending HBI’s HVAC training program at the Fred Acosta Job Corps Center in Arizona. She was committed—to learning a trades skill—and to changing her life. Through Marina’s example, other students were able to see the potential in themselves. “The HBI program turned my life around,” she said. “My instructor encouraged me to continue learning, to earn additional HVAC certificates, and to get my High School Diploma.”


Since graduation, Marina became a Service Technician in just four years, and she continues to define her future. College? Owning her own company? Her advice to everyone is this, “Follow your dreams, keep pushing forward, there is no limit to what you can do.”


ANGELA MORGAN
Human Resources/Payroll
Nunn Construction

“WE LOOK FOR WORKERS WHO BRING SOMETHING EXTRA TO THE JOB. THEN, WE ‘MENTOR THEM UP’ TO HELP THEM REACH THEIR POTENTIAL.”

Nunn Construction in Colorado Springs lives its mission of service by building schools, churches and medical facilities that make a difference in the community. For skilled labor, they turn to HBI for the core skills they need, including safety certification which is critical in commercial construction. “We work with HBI’s program at Fort Carson because it’s important for us to support our service men and women,” Angela says. “And students who receive HBI training through the Careers in Construction program at local high schools are a great resource as well.”


Nunn currently employs four HBI graduates and looks forward to welcoming more. “We offer the opportunities, but you have to grab them and work hard to make things happen. HBI students have that drive.”


STARR DELGADO
Instructor, HBI Job Corps Plumbing Program
Plumbing Program Graduate, 2001

“IT’S ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS. I GIVE MY STUDENTS THE SAME RESPECT I WANT FOR MYSELF.”

Starr Delgado’s story is one of giving back. At the Grafton Job Corps Center, she completed HBI’s plumbing training program and developed confidence she never knew she had. “Like the kids I teach today, I came from struggle. When I needed someone to believe in me, I found that person at HBI,” Starr says. ”They put me on a path that changed my life.”

After working in the plumbing trade, she returned to Grafton in 2017 as an HBI instructor. “If we teach our students from the moment they walk in that they are somebody, they want us to be proud of them. Every day I give them positive energy, recognition. I meet them where they are and then we move forward together.”


RAUL NUNEZ-PENA
Carpenter Apprentice
HBI Carpentry Program Graduate, 2019

“NEVER STOP PUSHING YOURSELF FORWARD. AND NEVER STOP GIVING BACK.”

At just 24 years old age, Raul Nunez-Pena has some pretty big goals and an ambitious plan to achieve them. While transitioning from active duty, he attended HBI’s Carpentry Program at Fort Hood in Texas (which receives funding from The Home Depot Foundation). “HBI taught me building trades skills to compliment the skills I learned in the military,” Raul says. “In addition, they inspired me to never stop learning.”


Since graduation, Raul re-enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve and today is balancing his military commitments with a civilian career, studying to become a civil engineer as well as a licensed home inspector. “One day I can see myself as an OSHA 510 Certified Instructor. I guess the classroom will always feel like home.”


JOHN POMELOW
Construction Site Supervisor
HBI Carpentry Program Graduate, 2018

“THE SKILLS I’VE LEARNED HAVE BLESSED ME AND MY FAMILY. NOW I’M USING THEM TO GIVE BACK TO MY COMMUNITY.”

John Pomelow has always known he wanted to be a carpenter. While transitioning from military service, he completed HBI’s Carpentry Program at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. “HBI taught me the trade from the ground up,” he says. ”HBI and The Home Depot Foundation, which funds the program, really invested in my future. They started me on a career path that allows me to provide for my family and serve my neighbors here in Fayetteville.”


Today, John is a Construction Site Supervisor with a local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity where he builds homes for local residents. He’s also studying for his general contractor’s license. “Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to build homes. And focusing that dream on those most in need feels right. ”


JUSTIN HARROD
Foreman
HBI Carpentry Program Graduate, 2018

“EVERY DAY ON THE JOB IS DIFFERENT. NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS, I KNOW HOW TO DO THIS, SO ME AND MY TEAM GET IT DONE.”

Justin’s wife Ashley was transitioning out of the military at Fort Carson in Colorado when she encouraged him to enroll in HBI’s Carpentry Program (which receives funding from The Home Depot Foundation). Justin was green, but he learned quickly. “HBI broke it down and made it easy,” he says. “They teach you the skills, plus they teach you OSHA 10 so you know how to complete a job safely.”


Justin went on to learn complex roof framing, ADA requirements, and local codes and engineering requirements that helped him become a Foreman in only 17 months. “HBI gave me the confidence to learn, and that’s an advantage I have over others in the field. My Supervisor tells me he has only seen one person become a Superintendent in 5 years. I’m going to be the second.”


DAMARIS GARCIA & JUAN GARCIA
Carpenters HBI Carpentry Program Graduates, 2020

“OUR HBI INSTRUCTOR AND PLACEMENT ADVISOR CONTINUE TO SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGE US. THEY’RE LIKE FAMILY.”

Damaris and her father Juan completed the HBI Carpentry program at Fort Carson near Colorado Springs together. The program, which receives funding from The Home Depot Foundation, gave Juan the in-demand skills he needed to start a post-military career. And it prepared Damaris for job possibilities she never dreamed of. “HBI’s excellent training is just the beginning,” she says. “They helped me and my dad find jobs right after graduation, at the same company! And they still stay in touch to see how we’re doing.”


Juan adds, “Damaris and I have great careers ahead of us, and we’ve even talked about starting our own company someday. I was deployed a lot during my 22 years in the military, so being able to spend time together is important to both of us.”