Carpentry from Many Angles

April 19, 2022
Suzanne Murdoch



Who is the typical Carpentry student at North Bennet Street School?

A better question might start with “who isn’t”? Our students come to us from a variety of backgrounds. Perhaps they served in the military, or had previous careers in construction or academia, or in any of a number of related areas. Our carpentry students may be just out of high school or embarking on their next life chapter. They may be young, older, or somewhere in between. What unites them is a shared passion for learning more about carpentry in all its applications.

We recently sat down with a group of NBSS Carpentry alumni to talk about their lives before, during, and after their time at NBSS. One was a former student recruiter, another had been a project manager for a construction company, and a third had served in the Army including deployment to Afghanistan. What they all shared was a desire to learn more about carpentry, and the willingness to take the leap toward a different future.

Portraits of Ali Muhammad, Xiomara Garcia, and Richard Yoo
Ali Muhammad, Xiomara Garcia, and Richard Yoo

So, what led them to embark on this path? According to Richard Yoo CA ’21, work stoppage in the wake of COVID opened a window of opportunity. “I always wanted to be one of those guys with the toolbelt on.” For Xiomara Garcia CA ’21, working alongside students in search of alternative graduation paths introduced her to carpentry. “I realized that inspired me more than sitting at my desk.” For Braima Massaquoi CA ’14, it was anticipating returning to construction after the military. Ali Muhammad CA ’21, a homeschooled high school graduate, he had dreams of being a union carpenter. While the reasons differ, each of these individuals found themselves committing to the Carpentry program at NBSS.

While you might expect the transition to Carpentry student has its challenges, the panel all remarked on the welcoming atmosphere of the School. There was also a sense of anticipation in starting something new. “Smooth” and “seamless” were some of the adjectives they used. What was also clear is the sense of camaraderie they had developed—while from different backgrounds, they were on a shared journey of discovery. As Braima put it, “Every single day I left the school thinking ‘that was a really good day.'”

The group has some advice to share with prospective Carpentry students. From Ali: “You can do a lot more than you think you can. Just start.” Xiomara had this to say: “Be patient with the process. There will be highs and lows. It will happen.” Richard remarked, “You will learn more at NBSS than you would working for someone. Just do it.” And from Braima, “Come in with an open mind and empty cup. Look for the win every day.”

What’s next for these NBSS alumni? They’re each firmly on the path to a future they’re charting, whether it’s union carpentry, teaching, or growing their own business. And, as NBSS graduates, they already have a robust professional network.

Have you dreamed of starting a career in carpentry? Consider taking the leap as these individuals did. We’re here to talk with you on how that might look and how we can help you get there. Let’s connect.

North Bennet Street School Carpentry Program