Fontbonne Academy Students Learn about Careers in Construction on Wellesley Visit
On March 29, Wellesley College welcomed a group of 12 young women from Fontbonne Academy in Milton, Mass., to the Science Center construction project. The visit was an eye-opener for many of the students from the all-girls preparatory high school.
The students toured various areas of the construction site, including the Global Flora greenhouse, the L wing, and the area of preserved architecture and walls from Sage Hall. They spoke with the women engineers and superintendents who have a role in the meticulous planning and execution that goes into each phase of the project.
Seeing women in these jobs exposed the Fontbonne students, all sophomores or juniors, to career options they might not otherwise have considered.
Rodarmei Saint Louis, a Fontbonne sophomore, said the tour made her aware of career possibilities in engineering or architecture. “I haven’t decided what I want to do in my life yet—I have time,” she said. “This definitely helps me see what else is out there. I would have never thought of construction. I liked how I saw women working with men.”
The tour was coordinated with Turner Construction Company and the Catholic Schools Foundation, a nonprofit institution that grants aid to low-income students to attend high-performing elementary and high schools throughout greater Boston.
To kick off their visit to Wellesley, Jessica Ricker, director of admission, talked to Fontbonne Academy students about the College’s focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Ricker said the buzz of construction and renovation on Science Hill shows Wellesley’s commitment to state-of-the-art facilities, hands-on research, and strong mentorship from faculty. She also gave the students tips for identifying colleges that would help them reach their full potential and how to navigate college costs and financial aid, and she explained how admission decisions are made when schools have more qualified applicants than available spots.
As they prepare to tour the Science Center construction site, Fontbonne students put on required protective hard hats and reflective vests at Turner Construction’s field office in Whitin House.
Outside Whitin House, employees from Catholic Schools Foundation (left) and Turner (right) take a photo of the Fontbonne students. Abi VanVlaenderen, an assistant engineer with Turner who is helping oversee construction of the new Global Flora greenhouse project, said she got interested in construction at age 14 when working on a school project. “We had to build a small bridge with toothpicks,” she said. “I loved it. That’s when I knew I wanted to be in construction.”
Rafael Rodriguez, a superintendent for Turner, explains how the Science Center’s electrical room works. Rodriguez said that growing up, he loved working on cars, so he started studying mechanical engineering in college. After interning with a construction company, he changed his major to civil engineering. “I never looked back,” he said. “I’ve been with Turner for eight years.”
Students walk on the catwalk in the four-story (60 foot) atrium space (called the Focus) that connects the L wing to Sage Hall. The Turner team explained the steps being taken to preserve the original wall (seen in background) of Sage. Beneath the catwalk are large cement pours, which will hold metal scaffolding in place to support the wall as work around it continues.