Hassani Enow learns the finer points of touch-up from SU painter Eugene Lunoff.
Hassani Enow is oblivious to the paint smudge in his hair as he rolls buff- colored paint up a wall at Seattle University’s Student Center. His concentration is fixed on the job at hand and on SU Facilities Services painter Eugene Lunoff, who shares the finer points of his skilled trade.
“When you roll up, no pressure at the top, just light,” Lunoff, a native of Latvia, tells Enow as they complete a touch-up.
It’s a good project for Enow, a Rainier Beach High School student who came to the United States seven years ago from Kenya. “I like painting because I get to work with my hands,” says Enow, a Yesler Terrace resident.
What brings this pair together on the SU campus with a few gallons of paint is all about helping young people get a taste of the building trades. It’s another example of Seattle University’s commitment to service in the community. Youth rotate through painting, plumbing and other trades, working alongside SU’s Facilities staff who contribute their time and experience as mentors two afternoons each week. Students earn $180 a month in wages as well as high school credit.
It’s called Career Workplace Exploration in Skilled Trades (CWEST), a one-semester course at Rainier Beach High School that gives Seattle high school students work experience and helps them learn what’s expected on a jobsite. The program is open to any junior or senior in the Seattle School District with good attendance in their other classes.
In the fall, five of the 14 students who participated in CWEST came to SU, which joined the program in 2010. After basic safety training and orientation, youths match up with facilities workers at SU, the Seattle School District, Port of Seattle, City of Seattle Parks and Facilities Maintenance and Seattle City Light.
Rainier Beach student Abdigani Mohamed, a native of Somalia, was among those who attempted to fix a leaky faucet in a campus kitchen.
“I like coming to a university, meeting new faces and new people,” Mohamed says.
Mohamed, who lives near South Jackson Street and Rainier Avenue South, has applied to three universities, SU among them, and sees how learning skills in the trades could support his future goals.
Richard Ely, who directs the Rainier Beach program, says students learn what it takes to do well in the workplace.
“Our mentors are fine people with a great deal of patience,” Ely says. “It’s all about giving these kids a chance to succeed.”