DELRAY BEACH, FL – Milagro Center has partnered with the City of Delray Beach, area private businesses and non-profit organizations to introduce middle school girls to career opportunities in the construction industry through a hands-on summer learning program, Girls Go Build.

Built to get their gears turning, Girls Go Build is posing some exciting possibilities to girls who may not have considered a career grounded in math or science.

“We find that in the economically challenged, academically at-risk population that we serve, most kid’s reading, math and science scores are low,” said Barbara Stark, President and CEO at Milagro Center. “Anything that we can do in an after-school setting that can tie these critical skills to something in a career is what we’re all about.”

By literally putting tools in their hands, Girls Go Build is sparking curiosity, allowing girls to explore various career paths and trade skills in the construction industry.

Helping them get their hands dirty is DPR Construction — a company that’s used to building great things.

“We have been supporting the Milagro Center for almost 10 years and have witnessed their growth and the positive impact they’ve had in the Delray Beach community,” said DPR Project Manager, Lina Nageondelestang. “That’s why, when they asked us to help, we jumped right in.”

DPR is providing safety instruction and hands-on experience with different tools including screw guns, nail guns, hammers, and a table saw.

“Most of the facilitators and volunteers for the DPR lead sessions are women of DPR,” said Nageondelestang. “Our goal is to empower the girls and show them the successful careers they can lead as a woman in the A/E/C (architecture, engineering, construction) industry.”

An industry where the pay gap is small. Women earn 95.7 percent on average of what men make. And where women are severely underrepresented making up just (9%). A stark contrast to nursing (90%) or teaching (79%).

Construction is an industry that desperately needs women.

“The City’s Department of Economic Development just did an industry cluster study,” said Janet Meeks, Education Coordinator, City of Delray Beach. “They found a tremendous need for workers in the construction industry. The trades are in high demand, and they’re high paying. Kids graduating from high school with industry certification can be employed with a living wage.”

But you have to get them through high school first.

“Middle schoolers consider dropping out of high school even before getting to the 9th grade,” said Stark. “They are among the most underserved population.”

Girls Go Build aims to reach girls at this critical juncture, building them up by incorporating math and science skills with fun, construction-based learning activities.

Meeks hopes that Girls Go Build will be a catalyst that will later help funnel girls into specialty programs like Atlantic High School’s Eagle Nest Program or South Tech Academy in Boynton Beach — schools that may offer them more concrete plans.

Can They Build It? Yes, They Can

Girls Go Build has participants rolling up their sleeves — building and fixing things, getting comfortable with tools and tool talk. Inspired by doing, they build knowledge, develop confidence and self-esteem.

It opens doors and gives them choices.

Participants come from economically depressed neighborhoods. They’ve grown up watching their parents work hard as home health aides, fast food workers, vegetable harvesters, general laborers or house cleaners. They’ve had little exposure to skilled workers like electricians, carpenters, plumbers or auto mechanics and are unaware of how much more money skilled workers command.

“Two years ago, we started this club LEAP — Ladies Empowerment and Achievement Program, Girls Go Build came about from this,” said Stark. “We empower these girls by bringing them together with positive female role models to show them the possibilities outside of what they know in this Delray Beach community.”

Girls Go Build is the lovechild of a committed community.

“It’s revolutionary,” said Meeks. “We’ve partnered the City, private industry and non-profit.”

Both Meeks and Stark hope the private sector will step up to support the program. Allowing an expansion of the curriculum to boost math skills, learn industry lingo, safety rules and higher technology like AutoCAD.

This unique program shows the community what young women can bring to a male-dominated field while shattering limiting beliefs of what jobs are appropriate for women.

Girls Go Build is already making a positive impact with its inaugural class, connecting participants with professionals, mentors and industry leaders. They’re building a network of support — and building character.

The allure of positivity has attracted the attention of government, private industry and non-profits, drawing them in like a magnet. Proponents include: The City of Delray Beach’s City Commission, Neighborhood and Community Services Division and the Office of Economic Development.

In addition to Milagro Center, the City of Delray Beach and DPR Construction, Girls Go Build is also supported by:

· Chamber of Commerce
· Habitat for Humanity
· Castle Construction
· Borrero Architecture
· BSA Construction
· ACHS: Eagles Nest Construction Academy
· South Tech Schools
· School District
· Lynn University

Girls Go Build is dedicated to shifting attitudes, allowing young women see themselves as architects, plumbers, engineers, mechanics, designers and more.

“A career should be a choice,” said Stark. “Getting these young ladies at this vulnerable age, we’re showing them opportunities that can make them successful, productive and love what they do.”

DPR South Florida’s regional safety lead, Wendy Foor, shows young women of The Milagro Center how to safely use a drill at during Girls Go Build program.

DPR Personnel (left): Wendy Foor, Regional Safety Lead

DPR Construction volunteers and The Milagro Center students pose with handmade toolboxes during Girls Go Build program.

DPR Personnel: Lina Nageondelestang (front left), Liam Francis (front right), Daniel Berger (back), Theresa Kinsloe (back), Wendy Foor (right with safety vest)

PR South Florida’s regional safety lead, Wendy Foor, shows young women of The Milagro Center how to use a leveler during Girls Go Build program.

DPR Personnel: Wendy Foor (right), Regional Safety Lead

Milagro Center has partnered with the City of Delray Beach, area private businesses and non-profit organizations to introduce middle school girls to careers in construction through the Girls Go Build program.

About Milagro Center:

Milagro Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, COA accredited agency whose mission is to enrich children’s lives through cultural arts, academic support and living values benefiting the children we serve, their families and the community at large. Milagro Center’s vision is to be a Center of inspiration that unites our society.

Established in 1997, the Center began by housing art exhibits, implementing outreach programs and providing after-school programs and summer camp for disadvantaged children. Since 2003, the Center has focused on furnishing superior arts education, academic enrichment, living values education and mentoring for at-risk children, youth and families living at or below the federal poverty level in South Florida.

On-site at the Milagro Center, disadvantaged children and youth experience art and academic enrichment daily in an environment that nurtures creativity and learning. Milagro Center is located at 695 Auburn Ave, Delray Beach. For more information, call 561-279-2970 or visit www.MilagroCenter.org.