Jamii Builders Graduates First Class from Pilot Construction Program

By Christina Gordon….

The Jamii Builders Residential Construction and Weatherization Graduating Class of 2011, pose with program Instructors, sponsors and partners

On Friday, July 15, 2011 at 12:00 Noon, 39 Opa-locka residents successfully graduated from the first class of the Jamii Builders Pilot Construction and Weatherization Program, a five-week training initiative which ensures career training and job placement to unemployed residents. Jamii Builders, a subsidiary of the Opa-locka Community Development Corporation (OLCDC) for which Willie Logan is Chief Executive Officer, is in partnership with local leaders, Miami-Dade County District 1 Commissioner Barbara Jordan, Opa-locka Vice Mayor Dorothy “Dottie” Johnson and Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA).

Jamii (pronounced Ja-my – Swahili for “Community”) Builders addresses the barriers that typically prevent low-income individuals from successfully obtaining or retaining employment, such as lack of train-ing, lack of on-the-job support to address social/employment related needs and lack of employment growth and career opportunities. It provides construction, renovation, maintenance and repair services to developers, owners and contractors in South Florida. Upon graduation of the program, workers are expected to initially make between $10 and $12.50 per hour, which can increase with experience. Many of the graduates will receive jobs with local contractors on the Magnolia North Redevelopment Project and be referred to other construction jobs after the project is complete. Trainees will become part of the Laborers International Union of North America.

During the luncheon and graduation ceremony, Opa-locka Mayor Myra Taylor exclaimed to Jamii Builders and its partners, “You have provided opportunity for jobs in Opa-locka for 33 men and six women!” She went on to present a “key to my house” (key to the city) to Dr. Robert E. Richardson, Sr., LIUNA Vice President and Keynote Speaker at the graduation ceremony.” Later in the program, Mayor Taylor, Commissioner Barbara Jordan and Vice Mayor Dorothy “Dottie” Johnson presented Richardson, District 41 State Senator Steve Henson who provided the fund for the training classes, Dr. Donna Rose McDaniel, Assistant Director of LIUNA, and Mr. Albert Huston, Jr. President of Construction and Craft Workers Local Union No. 1652 of LIUNA, with proclamations. Vice Mayor Johnson then designated the day (July 15, 2011) as their day! Commissioner Jordan commented, “This goes to the Heart of what I feel a community should be about!” She continued, “We used stimulus dollars and worked together to revitalize an entire community.” Dr. Wilbert T. Holloway of Miami-Dade County School Board, best summed the program in the quote, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.” “By having the know-how,” Holloway explained, “ allows the graduates to possess pride and take ownership.”

Willie Logan, who was noted for once being the youngest Mayor of the City of Opa-locka at age 23, stated that the Opalocka Community Development Corporation’s goal is to achieve economic stability. “The Jamii Builder’s program is an investment in us as a community,” stated Logan. He said he is committed to insuring that every graduate of this class has a job. The first eight were hired directly from training. According to Logan, “This is about rebuilding a community, families and lives.”

Jamii Builders started their construction training in mid June with the Opa-locka Community Development Corporation with a very competitive training program. There were 95 applications submitted, but only 39 participants were granted the opportunity to be a part of the program. Jamii Builders provided job preparation and sought to identify, train, and employ low-income and local residents, by creating new jobs in growth industries, provide sufficient recruitment, job training, longterm and on-site job retention.

Three graduates, Leroy Sheffield, Nikita Shannon-Graham and Neville A. Williams summed the training, the time and the bond created with fellow classmates and instructors, as empowering, encouraging and enduring. According to Sheffield, it was a confidence and faith-building process, accompanied by hard work. Others said the non-paying, hands-on experience was worth being on the job every day, and according to sponsors, there was 100% attendance during the entire program. “It evened the playground, while bringing about a new beginning, with unlimited opportunities that will infinitely impact self, family and community,” stated another student. The success of the class is due in part to the talent, skills and experience of four instructors, Memo Media, Robert Kelly, Henry L. Harrison and Fidel Gonzalez. Jamii Builder’s affiliation with a minority- owned and operated non-profit organization also allows for unique teaming opportunities with leading construction and contracting businesses.

For more information on Jamii Builders, contact: Denise Mincey-Mills denise@jamiibuilders.com 305-687-3545 Ext. 232 or Jewanna Porter jporter@golinharris.com on behalf of Jamii Builders, a subsidiary of Opa-locka Community Development Corporation Office: 404-367-2727 * Mobile: 404-934-0790.

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