The School Construction Authority doesn't just build schools, it's also helping to build futures.
"Everything you need to know about the program is in its name, Opportunity Academy, it's one of the few instances where the word opportunity is not used loosely or played with terminology. It's an actual opportunity to do something really great for your life," Shareef Telfair, an Opportunity Academy Graduate said.
Telfair is one of the graduates of the Opportunity Academy, a 10-week course run jointly by the SCA and LaGuardia Community College for people seeking jobs in construction administration. After the classroom work, participants are sent on to a 42-week internship with what the authority calls "mentor contractors" who do work for city agencies. The academy's most recent class just graduated this week.
"There are two great days for me at the SCA. One of them is the first day of school when I get to see the little ones walk into a building and the second is this one when I get to see my Opportunity Academy students succeed and I get to see my small mentor contractors begin to grow," SCA President Lorraine Grillo said.
The program doesn't just benefit the interns, it also helps the contractors, who gain an employee trained in the complicated paperwork that comes with building for city agencies.
"We have very skilled people who are great electricians or plumbers but they might not be comfortable with the paperwork requirement to get the work done," said Lois Fahie, Director of operations for business development at the SCA.
That's the kind of thing the graduates are trained in, the office side of construction.
"They break down construction from top to bottom, anything from management and contracts to anything else in between," program graduate Ashley Lawful said.
For most of the graduates, the program leads to full-time work, often sooner than expected.
"My internship wasn't that long, I interned for about two weeks and then I got hired and then two months after I got hired I was promoted," Lawful said.
The jobs can be life-changing. Telfair had been working in retail when his godmother urged him to sign up for the academy and aim higher.
"It's been the best thing that's happened to me in a very long time."