top of page
  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Young and able

Construction skills campers use their hammers in a lesson on drywall demolition. (All photos courtesy of Nuestra Escuela)

High schoolers learn construction, home maintenance skills at summer camp in Caguas

By Richard Gutiérrez

A group of high schoolers will learn to hammer nails, change locks and even install gypsum wallboard panels at “Campamento de Verano Destrezas de Construcción” (Construction Skills Summer Camp), which is run by the nonprofit free school Nuestra Escuela (Our School) in Caguas.

“This summer camp was originally forged out of a large interest on the part of our students in construction work,” Anairis Guzmán, the president, director and cofounder of Nuestra Escuela, told the STAR. “It is fundamental that all of us know basic construction skills to resolve any maintenance issue that has to do with basic house maintenance and renovation. Perhaps some were interested in these basic skills, while others were interested in dedicating their lives to construction, and if they decide that’s not what they wanted to do, at the very least they’ll be taking a few basic life skills with them from this summer camp, such as plumbing, changing a wall socket, using tools …”

Teenagers ranging in the age from 13 to 18 began their classes with a speech about safety in the construction field. The company Aireko provided self-protective equipment, which the students will use throughout the camp: helmets, safety glasses, gloves and jackets.

“I hope they learn and enjoy themselves a lot here. This is the first ever project among a plethora of other projects to come regarding vocational schooling here at Nuestra Escuela,” Guzmán added. “We are extremely happy with the reception the summer camp has received and are very grateful to Cynthia Beltrán, who has done an excellent job coordinating this summer camp and helping us. I would most certainly call this a contribution to Puerto Rico; there is a lot to reconstruct in Puerto Rico, and providing these skills to our people helps all of us. Parents and family members don’t stop thanking us for the service Nuestra Escuela is providing to the island.”

Beltrán, the camp coordinator, said “I am very surprised with how great our students have integrated themselves into the summer camp and attendance has been consistent.”

“They are very happy with the summer camp and are enjoying it,” she said. “They are developing new skills and I’ve seen them progress a lot; they are interested and that alone tells me we’ve done a good job with them.”

One of the students, Luis Merced Guzmán, said “[t]he summer camp has been wonderful.”

“I was exploring what I wanted to do -- at first I was in the culinary arts circle, but I felt that it was not my thing, so I moved on to construction work and am now considering a career that has to do with construction work,” he said.

Another student, Laura Vázquez, added: “I have really enjoyed the summer camp even though I’m not interested in studying something related to construction.”

“I’m just interested in the subject and want to use it for my personal life,” she said.

The camp is not only an experience for Nuestra Escuela students, but also is open to the public -- anyone can join. The school director noted that young people from numerous municipalities are attending the camp, which was originally designed for only 20 students, but when they published the announcement in Facebook, the organizers received more than 70 applications, so they made a second batch of 20 spaces so they could at least accommodate 40 participants.

The camp was originally supposed to run through June, but now has a second session in July.

With nearly 20 years of experience in construction, including remodeling and building some parts of Nuestra Escuela, Vladimir Pión Salvador is now a teacher at the camp and will share his skills with the students.

“We are going to teach the kids how they can develop their skills in terms of installing doors, gypsum board, and locks, managing electrical outlets, acquiring the ability to use a hammer with ease, apart from knowing how to fix things around their own homes in their daily lives,” Pión Salvador said.

As part of their initial sessions, the students learned how to remove old gypsum wallboard. With hammers in hand they put on their gloves and safety glasses, helmets and masks to protect themselves from the dust released by the gypsum board, and together they smashed through a gypsum board wall. Afterwards, they worked together to pick up debris as is normally done after a regular day of remodeling a building.

The next task involved building a new wall, applying cement, and laying up bricks, working with putty, and installing locks, among other projects.

Nuestra Escuela is an educational center alternative that operates as a nonprofit organization, providing free services in Caguas and Loíza. At both locations, the school also functions as a preschool center, better known as Nuestra Escuelita (Our Little School). The Middle States Association, which certifies alternative education centers in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and Latin America, granted Nuestra Escuela and Nuestra Escuelita accreditation for seven years.

Soon Nuestra Escuela will expand its regular educational services to include vocational education with curriculums that include remodeling and construction.

108 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

COFINA settles longstanding dispute with IRS

By The Star Staff The Puerto Rico Sales Tax Financing Corporation (COFINA in Spanish) has settled a $12.6 million claim with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), ending a dispute that began in 201


bottom of page