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February 13, 2013
Creating jobs and training the next generation of “green” workers is a fundamental focus of the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI). With a grant from the Open Society Foundations’ Poverty Alleviation Fund, GHHI has provided funding to nine sites to provide training programs and job placement services for under-employed and unemployed workers and formerly incarcerated individuals. In Detroit, the grant is implemented via the Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice’s (DWEJ) Green Jobs Training Program.
DWEJ works with communities to create cleaner, healthier and safer neighborhoods. The Green Jobs Training Program, which runs for 12 weeks, transforms the lives of Detroiters and their communities through sustainable, environmentally just and green job practices. One of its graduates, Donitra Scott, is just one of the lives enriched by the program.
A longtime member of the Bricklayers and Allied Craftsman Local 1 Union, Donitra is the owner of Dee’s Impressive Décor and More, a tile installation company. Family members encouraged her to take part in the Green Jobs Training Program.
Here students are encouraged to think past bricks and mortar. The initial weeks of the program focused on self-evaluation exercises.
Donitra relayed, “We conversed about things that we don’t talk about in daily life. I wasn’t expecting this since it was a construction-based program. This [component] was something to make you look at yourself differently. Where do you see yourself in a few years? How do you feel about spirituality? Things that help define you as a person. We covered things that necessitated deep conversation.”
During the program, Donitra earned her state lead and asbestos licenses, First Aid certifications and learned the basics of construction, just to name a few of her accomplishments.
“The lead and asbestos trainings were very important,” Donitra shared. “I have been in a union for seven years and they are [just] implementing these standards now. I feel like I got a head start. It makes you a more valuable asset to a company to have these types of trainings. Overall, the certificates and licenses that I earned are very important to me and added to my career. ”
She had been working in the construction field for some time before the DWEJ program. But, according to Donitra, the program “opened doors for me as far going down a different path and doing it on my own.” She found it gratifying when a classmate who has owned his own construction business for two decades complimented her on her tile installation work.
Ever one to pay it forward, Donitra hired one of her DWEJ classmates as her apprentice.
She said, “It meant a lot to be able to help someone else. He helped with a little bit of everything as an apprentice to a journeyman in the field.”
Apart from beautifying places and spaces, Donitra is doing her part to create a better Detroit in another fashion.
Her apprentice is also her business partner in her Better Days Global nonprofit, which is a charity that she founded to instill good morals and values in the kids that she hopes to reach. Donitra said, “The main focus of the charity is that the kids learn to respect themselves first, and then they will learn to respect their community and people around them. “
Given her background in construction, Donitra doesn’t imagine her life would be much different had she not been in the DWEJ program. But it did make an indelible impact on her personally.
“The program gave me more depth and made me think a little differently. It made me realize that there are other opportunities out there and I can seize them if I put my mind to it. You’re able to meet people who have faith in you.”
As what’s next for Donitra, her company will not be far from her mind but she is also going to focus more on her nonprofit. This Donitra says she is “more passionate about.”
She said, “I want to get my company up and running. But the nonprofit is where my heart is.”