Series | Catalysts
Turning a construction site into a classroom

unCommon Construction’s internship for high school students lays the foundation for future success by offering real-world job experience.

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In partnership with Stand Together

The average internship for high school students typically involves unpaid time spent completing mindless tasks such as filing papers, making copies, or taking coffee orders. But unCommon Construction offers a unique alternative that’s better preparing young adults for life beyond the classroom.

It’s an internship for high school students that not only pays an hourly rate and awards scholarships based on the fruits of their labor, but also provides valuable, hands-on experience that’s applicable long after graduation. Participating students get to build a house together while developing the soft skills necessary for entering the workforce.

Located in New Orleans, unCommon Construction is a nonprofit founded by Aaron Frumin. With a strong drive to help others, Frumin dropped out of college to join the Red Cross in its response to Hurricane Katrina. He’s also worked with AmeriCorps, supervised construction with Habitat for Humanity, and gained experience as a teacher with Teach For America.

He was inspired to start unCommon Construction when someone asked what he intended to do with all of his experiences. He said that if he was supposed to do anything he’d build houses with high school students and use the profits to award scholarships to the kids.

So Frumin packed up and returned to New Orleans to start the nonprofit and its now popular high school internship program.  

unCommon Construction’s Internship for High School Students 

How does the program work? On the job, students earn an hourly wage to help build a real house on a real construction site. They learn to take measurements, read blueprints, and use a variety of tools. They also learn how to work together to solve problems.

After a project is complete, the finished home is put up for sale. A percentage of the proceeds from each sale is used to award scholarships to the students who participated. In addition to operating and awarding scholarships from the proceeds, unCommon Construction also helps fund materials and labor with donations.

The paid internship for high school students is available to all participating schools in New Orleans. Students must be at least 16-years-old to apply and able to commit to 10 hours of work per week – one shift after a school day, and another all day on Saturday. 

The Value of Internship Programs for High School Students 

While all knowledge gained at school is important, life isn’t a multiple-choice test. In order to prepare students for their careers, unCommon Construction takes them beyond the four walls of a classroom and empowers them with real-world job experience.

The internship teaches students to cultivate the professional skills that will set them apart as leaders and team players. Students learn skill sets that are essential to hireability such as communication, accountability, responsibility, critical thinking, and problem solving.

They not only acquire the experience needed to land their first full-time job, but the work ethic that earns promotions. At unCommon Construction, students also build relationships with a network of industry professionals through commercial construction companies that partner with the nonprofit.

Additionally, the internship facilitates practical applications of the academic skills students pick up in the classroom. During a semester of working for unCommon Construction, participants are able to see the tangible value of what they learn in school.

They can begin to apply their knowledge, as they learn to measure the proper angles of beams or determine materials needed based on square-footage. Frumin says students encounter, “more math, science, reading, engineering, art, and social skills in one day on a build site than most professions experience in one year.” 

Stand Together Helps Expand unCommon Construction’s Impact

unCommon Construction recently partnered with Stand Together, which will help the nonprofit continue to provide this invaluable internship for high school students.

Of the partnership and support unCommon Construction has received, Frumin says, “(It) makes me feel like I’m a part of a larger movement because it kind of takes the roof off of what we might be able to do and think beyond the horizon of a single build site, here in New Orleans, and think really big about the potential of our impact.”

Every student deserves a chance to reach their full potential, and with quality internship opportunities for high school students, that’s exactly what unCommon Construction is enabling.

“We believe that all young people should have access to every opportunity afforded to them, and that shouldn’t be determined by the zipcode you grow up in, the network you’re connected to, the resources in your school building, or the quality of instruction that you’re getting,” says Frumin. “We need young people to believe in the power of their skills and their ability to pave their own way.”

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About Stand Together

Stand Together helps social entrepreneurs supercharge their efforts by connecting them with passionate partners and the resources necessary to make a greater difference.

Through Stand Together’s philanthropic community, they’re tackling some of the nation’s biggest challenges so that every person has the opportunity to realize their full potential.

Learn more about getting support for your business, or become a partner today at StandTogether.org.

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