Children's hospital hopes building new clinic will also help build career paths for Oakland students

The UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital in Oakland is building a new outpatient clinic as part of a 10-year campus construction project, and in the process, they have formed another plan to help build up the skills and dreams of students in the Oakland Unified School District.

The hospital, school district and Turner Construction formed a summer pilot program to use the construction site as an educational opportunity to teach students about the construction industry and potential inspire them to pursue a career or a job in the field.

The stuff of dreams can take shape in many ways and for Anai Melendrez, 15, her dreams have always involved the possibilities of steel, concrete, and hard construction work.

"I actually like the hard work. I want to be a laborer. I've been looking into it and I think that's really what I want to do," said Anai, a junior at OUSD's Fremont High School.

Now, she's getting a chance. Anai is one of ten students chosen for the five-week pilot program from Oakland's Castlemont, Fremont and McCymonds High Schools. The group has visited construction sites, received hands-on training in construction trades at the Cypress Mandela work program, and met directly with the project's architects at HDR Architects in San Francisco and engineers with Turner Construction.

"They got exposed to the world of architecture, the world of engineering, they got exposed to the world of apprenticeship," said Emiliano Sanchez, the OUSD Director of Career Technical Trades & Apprenticeship.

"When you just look at a building, you just see the outside of it. But when you're actually there and you see the blueprints and stuff, there's a lot of stuff inside," said De'Sean Brantley, a senior at OUSD McClymonds High School. He says he wants to work inside a hospital as a doctor in sports medicine, but says the program opened his eyes to another career possibility he hadn't considered.

It's the same for Reyna Jauregui, a junior at OUSD Fremont High School who is part of the architecture program.

"If you don't want to go to college right away, you still got the opportunity to get in a program, get in a union," she said.

"Ideally, some of these kids could actually be on this project later. They could be an architect, they could be a contractor, they could work for Children's in some capacity. They could be a trades person working for a union. Any of these things would be incredible," said Doug Nelson, a Vice-President at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.

For Anai Melendrez, that would be a dream come true.

"A lot of people they think we're not capable because we're a woman, but I want to prove to everyone that the woman can do the same thing that the man can. That gender doesn't determine your strength and your ability to do something," Anai said.

The summer pilot program wraps up in August but the organizers are already meeting to discuss how to continue the program into the school year and help build a career path for Oakland students.