Omar Ocasio CA ’24

June 26, 2024
Meredith Fidrocki


Alumni, Carpentry, Profiles

“The joy of it all”

Carpentry ’24
Age 18

Dorchester, MA

Omar graduated from the Facilities Management program at Boston’s Madison Park Technical Vocational High School in 2023. He ultimately enrolled in the NBSS Summer Carpentry Intensive and then the full-time Carpentry program, but not before wrestling with another career path.

What did you do before coming to train at NBSS?

I graduated from the Facilities Management program at Boston’s Madison Park Technical Vocational High School in 2023. Freshman year at Madison Park, COVID happened and we went to Zoom, which was terrible for me because I prefer to get my hands dirty. During that time, we covered basic information—drywall, framing, identifying tools, etc. Thankfully, we eventually got back in person and straight into the coursework inside the school, like painting and drywall installation.

Omar framing a wall

Then I did the North Bennet Summer Carpentry Intensive program, which was a great experience. It kept me busy and focused. The community was the best part. The people around me were all so interested in what we were doing, which was building the Bennet town—our name for all the little buildings and houses we made during the program. We covered blueprints, wall and floor framing, drywall installation, and more. And we had an opportunity to have our own tools and be responsible for them.

Peter Smith PC ’04, the program’s lead instructor, was very patient and professional with us. He explained everything extremely well and was a great teacher. Peter made it fun to learn, and I think having Peter there helped me ultimately decide to enroll in the full-time program at North Bennet.

When/how did you discover your discipline/field?

At first, I wanted to be an auto mechanic because I love cars. My dad’s a union roofer, and my grandpa was a carpenter. I was young when my grandpa passed, but I remember he would get in his truck and go out every morning and pray for a job. That’s how he got his income. 

When I toured Madison Park, I realized it had a carpentry program and that became my first choice. Unfortunately, I didn’t get in though because a lot of students were interested. I enrolled in the Facilities Management program, which covered similar skills, so I did at least get some educational background information about carpentry. But I would still walk around to look at what the carpentry program was doing and liked what I saw.

Why did you choose to invest in training for a new career?

After graduating from high school, I was torn between pursuing the Boston firefighter program or the North Bennet Carpentry program. I asked all of my family members for advice. They’d ask me, ‘What do you see yourself doing in five years? What is grabbing your interest more?’ 

Finally, it was my younger sister (I’m the oldest of five) who helped me decide. I opened her door and said, ‘I need your help. I have to choose between these two life paths.’ She said, ‘Ok, let’s break it down. What do they both offer? Which one do you see bringing you joy? Which one do you see yourself teaching your future kids one day?’ From that conversation, I realized that carpentry is the best place to show my knowledge and express who I am. 

Omar Ocasio

I felt I could go to North Bennet and then do carpentry for the rest of my career. So I chose North Bennet. I’d also heard someone say that North Bennet was like the Harvard of trade schools. And the fact that the school was in Boston, it was a good commute, I could wake up, and take the bus and train to get there… it was perfect.

My dad was a bit surprised at first because he thought I was shooting for something in an office. But I told him I knew this was a great opportunity. 

I’m trying to convince at least one of my younger siblings to follow me into the field. I’ve been sneaking in some cool facts during dinner, showing them my tools, and telling them about what I do every day.

What are some ways you have felt supported during your time at School?

The financial aid I received was incredible. The School also had a closet full of food for students to grab, which I thought was amazing. Everyone was super welcoming, positive, and happy to be there. You felt their joy and excitement—the teachers and the students. The community and people are great. If I had to rate the school, it would be 10 out of 10.

How do you feel at the end of a full day in the shop?

If there was something I wish I’d done a bit better, I can’t wait for the next day. Clocking in, I’m excited to be learning something new. 

I love the community, and I believe in teamwork. I didn’t picture myself doing solo work or in an office shuffling papers. I saw myself outdoors with a team, communicating and joking around. That saying about how if you love something, you’ll never consider it work … that’s exactly what I felt during my first weeks on the job site. The joy of it all drives me.

What’s next for you?

My instructor Peter and I and a few other classmates went to coffee recently, and we discussed what our plans were, which I appreciated. I’ve decided I’m going to reach out to the company where I interned.

What is one of your favorite places for lunch near NBSS?

Ernesto’s Pizza. I get the buffalo pizza with a Coke. Every time I was in line, I’d turn around and there were two other classmates behind me.

What is one of your favorite places at NBSS?

The NBSS gallery. Every morning, I would clock in, walk up the stairs, and see what students in other departments had been working on; it was all laid out perfectly. Everything from chairs to bookbinding projects. It was just amazing to see. The work is fantastic.

Carpentry students Omar and Cal with the cabinets they built
Carpentry students Omar and Cal with the cabinets they built

What’s one of your favorite places in or around Boston?

The Boston Public Library. It’s a beautiful, calming space. I used to go there a lot when I needed to freshen up on my math or classroom work.

What’s your favorite, tool, machine, or material?

Chop saw. It’s beginner-level and very nice to use.

What is one of your favorite experiences at NBSS?

As a Carpentry class, over four months, we built two large runs of fine cabinetry, for the Preservation Carpentry and Bookbinding programs to house rare tool collections. Having made something that’s going to stay in the School I graduated from is just a beautiful thought.

This story is from our Summer 2024 issue of Benchmarks magazine. View more issues.