Celebrating Women’s Equality Day, Highlighting Graduate Success

Friday, August 22, 2014
Gina graduating

August 26 is Women’s Equality Day. On this day, America recognizes the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. Moreover, Women’s Equality Day calls to attention women’s continued struggle for full equality.

At YouthBuild, where 30% of our students are female, we believe in equality in the classroom, on the worksite, and as leaders. In recognition of Women’s Equality Day, we celebrate Gina Vongkaeo, YouthBuild San Joaquin graduate, who is succeeding in all three areas.

Gina’s hard work as a YouthBuild student provided her the opportunity to speak at graduation when she was awarded her high school diploma. “It was the happiest day of my life. It feels good - to pick myself up, to graduate, and earn a high school diploma,” she said in an interview with Capital Public Radio. She walked across the stage with a 3.75 grade point average.

After graduation, Gina became a member of Carpenters Local 152 and was recently awarded a scholarship from the Association of General Contractors (ACG) for her dedication to the trade. In a AGC Construction Education Foundation video she said, “I like using my hands - I had two jobs going into the trade. I did a lot of framing, a lot of waste water treatment. It’s just something that I like to do. It’s my passion.”

In April, Gina led California YouthBuild students on Capitol Hill in meetings with elected officials. She served a vital role in leading discussion and supporting young people as they shared their stories. This leadership role is often held by the most experienced YouthBuild leaders. But, Gina’s positive nature and leadership ability was recognized by YouthBuild USA Graduate Leadership Department in their selection of her for the job

Gina in DC

Gina represents the 9% of the 9 million trade workers in the U.S. who are women. This discrepancy reflects the ongoing struggle for equality on the jobsite. In a recent “Women in Trades” Department of Labor blog, Connie Ashbrook, Executive Director of Oregon Tradeswomen Inc., said, “The most challenging obstacle women have to overcome - is a lack of knowledge about these careers and how to successfully apply.” In communities across the country, YouthBuild programs provide opportunities for young women like Gina to learn construction skills and explore careers in the building trades.

We applaud Gina in her success and her leadership in the YouthBuild movement. Her story is an example of the potential of young people when they are provided with equal opportunity.