Wali Qaderi CA ’23
When/how did you discover your discipline/field?
Carpentry is completely new to me. Actually, the United States and Massachusetts are also new to me.
I moved to the U.S. from Afghanistan in January 2020, right before Covid. I was on a World Bank fellowship in Washington, D.C., but in the middle of the fellowship, Covid started and the program was canceled.
For various reasons I was unable to return to Afghanistan at that time, and so I moved to Massachusetts with my wife and two daughters. After some time, I decided I wanted to work with my hands and build things. From there, I started looking for construction jobs and trade schools.
How did you discover NBSS? Why did you choose to attend the School?
I was supporting my family, so I thought the best option would be to start working in construction. But because of my lack of experience and having never worked on a construction site, it was difficult to find someone to hire me.
I started researching trade schools and found North Bennet; I learned that it is the first trade school in the United States. I thought, “Wow! I am lucky I ended up in Massachusetts.”
I did a lot of research on the North Bennet website, and I liked the Carpentry program. I quickly jumped to the financial part and thought, “I don’t know if I have that much money. How will I be able to pay?” Besides school, I would have to support my family. I decided to go ahead and apply, and I could make a decision about the fees later. I knew it would be a difficult task, but I said, “Well, whatever it is, I will find a way to pay the fee and also support my family.”
The first year I applied, I was placed on the waiting list; due to Covid, the number of accepted students had been reduced. The next year, when admissions was open, I joined an information session with Director of Admissions & Enrollment Rob O’Dwyer, and he remembered me. I think seeing me again that next year, he saw I was serious about this career; I was accepted.
Can you name one of your favorite experiences in the program?
The overall experience was wonderful. The teachers were amazing. The School is very diverse; there are talented students and people of all different ages and lifestyles. Carpentry was my main focus, but for me, everything was new and a wonderful learning experience.
I learned about the U.S. and Massachusetts just by being in the School and asking my classmates questions. They were so patient. I knew English, but mostly from watching Hollywood movies or TV news, and that English was quite different!
Sometimes the instructors would explain something and if it was difficult for me to catch the direction or the explanation, my fellow classmates would repeat it and explain it again in a simple way. It would not be fair to just name a couple because all of them were very kind to me.
Now, when I see cars with a Massachusetts license plate, which says, “The Spirit of America,” I actually think of NBSS. The North Bennet instructors, students, alumni, everyone—I think they are the spirit of Massachusetts and the United States.
Can you describe the NBSS community in just a few words?
The spirit of Massachusetts, and the spirit of the United States.
Let’s talk about your instructors. What have you learned most from them?
My instructors, Peter Smith PC ’04 and Brock Leiendecker PC ’16, were amazing. They took us on site visits; we saw some very expensive projects in a neighborhood in Boston. Peter and Brock are well respected in their profession and knowledgeable. They also knew my situation here in the U.S. and were so supportive.
Peter and Brock and this whole school completely changed my lifestyle. I used to wake up early, but never this early! Now, I’m a different person. I wake up early, around five o’clock, and I go to bed early. Even how I dress is completely different! I wear a hat and boots. Everything changed completely. It’s amazing.
This is the first chapter of my experience. I have a long way to go, but I got an excellent foundation from Peter and Brock.
What are some ways you have felt supported at NBSS?
The financial assistance I received from the School helped me so much.
I was studying four days a week, and then three days a week, I was working at Home Depot to pay the grocery and other bills. I was borrowing money from my sister to pay the rent, but the other bills were my responsibility.
Without financial assistance, it would not have been possible for me to attend North Bennet.
Can you describe your work in just two or three words?
When someone gives me a job, even if it’s a difficult job, I tell myself that I can do it. 20 years ago in my country, the country and city were destroyed. Every time a road or school was rebuilt in our city, it would feel so nice for our community. Now, when I build something, I personally feel accomplished in my heart. That gives me peace of mind.
Besides working in your field, what else keeps you busy?
My family, my wife, and my two daughters. I had a long commute every day to North Bennet, and I would wake up early while they were still in bed. I only had two hours at night with my daughters, and even if I was tired, playing with them would give me comfort and motivation for the next day.
What motivates you?
What motivates me is hope for the future, for my wife and my daughters. Every day of work here is about a better future for my daughters and my family. That makes me motivated.
What’s next for you?
I was hired by Columbia Contracting Corp., which is based in Natick, Massachusetts. North Bennet helped me find this position, and Peter recommended me to the company. I will do my best in this job to represent North Bennet and what Peter and Brock taught me.
North Bennet was the first chapter of my life in the United States, so it has been emotional leaving my instructors and classmates. We have been together for the last nine months. Sometimes I’m unlucky in life, but sometimes I’m very lucky. I have found my way.