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Graniterock Construction Academy Takes Teens Beyond Textbook

Andrea Rocha spent the summer before her senior year at Watsonville High School in California washing, testing and measuring aggregate at Graniterock’s research laboratory in Aromas, Calif.

The full-time paid internship allowed the 17-year-old a look at what it’s like to work in the construction materials industry, with all kinds of hands-on experiences related to asphalt quality and compaction.

It was like a science class on steroids. One that could lead to a career.

“This opportunity has given me a better understanding of what I might want to pursue a career in. I’ve also realized that this might just be the job for me later in the future,” Rocha said. “It’s cool for me because the only way I knew about this place was due to The Construction Academy.”

Rocha was one of a handful of Graniterock teenage interns who arrived at the company this summer through The Construction Academy, a year-long program sponsored by Graniterock that introduces high school students to potential career opportunities in the heavy civil construction and construction materials industries.

Other teen interns from the Academy included Jonathan Nakamoto and Christian Ochoa, each of whom wanted to continue learning about the industry and how they might make a career in it after high school or college.

Nakamoto, 19, took part in The Construction Academy while attending James Lick High School in San Jose, Calif.

Field trips to construction job sites, the A. R. Wilson Quarry and Graniterock’s asphalt plant in Redwood City were just the hook that got Nakamoto thinking about this career path. He’s worked through the summer in the construction division’s San Jose equipment yard with Elden Davis and Chuck McEwen.

A highlight for Nakamoto was getting certified to operate a forklift. He also had the chance to use the company’s small tools and spent time cleaning up the construction yard.

“You learn a lot here,” Nakamoto said. “I’ve been out to different job sites and learned how to use the equipment. It’s been fun. I’d recommend others check out this opportunity. You get to do a lot.”

For Ochoa, a James Lick graduate who will attend San Jose State University in the fall, The Construction Academy experience reinforced his dream to become a civil engineer. His time at Graniterock included everything from computer work in the office to visiting job sites and watching a concrete pour. He was invited to attend a project management meeting for the company’s BART extension project for Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority.

“Every day I come here I can’t believe what I’m doing,” Ochoa, 18, said. “I feel like I’ve been able to see everything the Construction Division does. Everybody here has been so friendly, it’s really boosted my confidence.”

Victor Maya, 17, a student at the Downtown College Prep Academy in San Jose, enjoys robotics and working with his hands. His summer internship involved helping with time card management for the field crews and helping the small tools department handle inventory. Like Nakamoto, he most enjoyed the chance to run some equipment.

“I got to drive the forklift, which is pretty fun,” Maya said. “The whole experience has been great. I’d recommend others try Graniterock too.”

James Lick High academic counselor Stephen Loya said The Construction Academy ties in perfectly with the school’s project-based curriculum, which pushes students to go beyond the textbook. The academy’s field trips to Graniterock facilities and project sites opened the teens’ eyes to a construction career, he said.

“I know for Jonathan, he was psyched about this and hung on everyone’s word,” Loya said. “It was great for our students to see the construction industry come to life.”