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June 27, 2016

First Opportunity Academy Graduation—Program Result of Partnership Among NYC School Construction Authority, NYC Department of Design and Construction, and LaGuardia Community College

Career Readiness Program Supports Minority-Owned, Woman-Owned, and Locally-Based Business Enterprises

Graduates of Opportunity Academy gather on stage for a photograph.

Shavone Williams
Public Information Officer

Dan Leibel
Junior Public Information Officer

Long Island City, NY—The first cohort of the Opportunity Academy, an innovative construction administration training program that can lead to employment opportunities with city agencies or small businesses throughout the city, graduated on June 23 at LaGuardia Community College.
Developed by the NYC School Construction Authority (SCA), in collaboration with LaGuardia Community College and the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC), the program promotes career readiness by preparing individuals for openings in construction office administration—jobs that require knowledge of processes, compliance laws and regulations about public construction management, procurement, labor, and more.

“When all individuals participate in our economy regardless of their race, gender or ethnicity, the City as a whole flourishes - which is why we strive to be an inclusive City. I applaud the great work DDC, SCA, LaGuardia Community College, and the Opportunity Academy is doing to prepare people for a great career in construction. I also want to thank them for getting us closer to our goal of awarding $16 billion in M/WBE contracts by 2025,” said NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“The offices of SCA and DDC are in a building next to our campus—so we’re thrilled to collaborate with our neighbors on Opportunity Academy! This innovative program brings together the expertise of New York City’s construction agencies and faculty here at LaGuardia, to help interested City residents become skilled in the high demand field of construction office administration,” said Dr. Gail O. Mellow, President of LaGuardia Community College. “The program reflects what we at LaGuardia do best—educating and training people who want to get a high-quality job with employers who need their skills.”

Opportunity Academy is a free program that offers students a stipend during training and internship phases, funded by SCA and DDC.

Twenty-nine students graduated from the 10-week program, which began in April 2016, and featured classes led by SCA and DDC construction and procurement professionals. As part of the training, students studied various processes and procedures necessary to conduct business with the SCA and DDC from bidding to project closeout.

Next, the 29 graduates will begin 42-week internships with certified minority-owned, woman-owned, and locally based business enterprises (MWLBE) enrolled in SCA’s mentor program, as well as with various SCA and DDC departments. By working directly with these potential employers, Opportunity Academy graduates will have opportunities to gain job skills that will allow them to compete as industry professionals.

“With Opportunity Academy, the SCA is growing our commitment to students and MWBLE firms. By teaching the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in the construction industry, we not only strengthen our MWBLE firms but have opened a new pathway to middle-class career readiness at LaGuardia Community College,” said Lorraine Grillo, President and CEO of SCA. “Our partnership with LaGuardia has been invaluable and through our shared dedication and commitment to Opportunity Academy, we've made tremendous gains.”

“This unique and innovative program at LaGuardia Community College will allow interested students to gain valuable on-the-job training in construction management and procurement,” said Rev. Jacques DeGraff, Chair of SCA’s Diversity Advisory Council. “To gain access to middle-class jobs in a highly-competitive 21st century environment, students need the transferable skills that Opportunity Academy provides. I am thrilled to be a part of creating a link between our MWLBE firms and a newly trained, skilled workforce, allowing them to grow their businesses and provide additional employment opportunities.”

"DDC is a leading agency in awarding contracts to minority- and women-owned firms, with $242 million awarded in contracts last year, and is committed to the Mayor's vision of increasing opportunities for the City's MWBEs community," said DDC Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora. "We'll continue to identify ways to enhance the abilities of MWBE firms."

In addition to the graduates’ families and friends, and the City and LaGuardia Community College leadership quoted above, attendees at the graduation included: 


  • Jay Hershenson, Senior Vice Chancellor and Board Secretary, City University of New York
  • Una Clarke, Member, Board of Trustees, City University of New York 
  • Sandra Wilkin, Board of Trustees, City University of New York
  • Suzanne Veira, Chief Diversity Officer, SCA


About LaGuardia Community College
LaGuardia Community College located in Long Island City, Queens, educates more than 50,000 New Yorkers annually through degree, certificate, and continuing education programs. Our guiding principle Dare To Do More reflects our belief in the transformative power of education—not just for individuals, but for our community and our country—creating pathways for achievement and safeguarding the middle class. LaGuardia is a national voice on behalf of community colleges, where half of all US college students study. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), the College reflects the legacy of our namesake, Fiorello H. LaGuardia, the former NYC mayor beloved for his championing the underserved. Since our doors opened in 1971, our programs regularly become national models for pushing boundaries to give people of all backgrounds access to a high quality, affordable college education. We invite you to join us in imagining what our students, our community, and our country can become. Visit to learn more.

About the New York City School Construction Authority
The School Construction Authority was established by the New York State Legislature in December 1988 to build new public schools and manage the design, construction and renovation of capital projects in New York City. The SCA’s mission is to design and construct safe, attractive and environmentally sound public schools for children throughout New York City.  We are dedicated to building and modernizing schools in a responsible, cost-effective manner while achieving the highest standards of excellence in safety, quality and integrity.

The SCA is committed to working with minority, women and local business enterprise (MWLBE) firms. The Business Development Division (BDD) offers a variety of programs to help MWBLE firms grow their businesses and access contracting opportunities at the SCA. Our BDD group recruits firms through community outreach and participation in various minority trade shows, conferences and forums. To find out more, visit

About the NYC Department of Design and Construction
The Department of Design and Construction is the City’s primary capital construction project manager. In supporting Mayor de Blasio’s lenses of growth, sustainability, resiliency, equity and healthy living, DDC provides communities with new or renovated public buildings such as firehouses, libraries, police precincts, new or upgraded roadways, sewers, and water mains in all five boroughs. To manage this $15 billion portfolio, DDC partners with other City agencies, architects and consultants, whose experience bring efficient, innovative, and environmentally-conscious design and construction strategies to city projects. For more information, visit