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Be the Person You Want to Be

Be the Person You Want to Be
Posted on 01/29/2018
Jeffco alum Kayleen McCabe shares stories with Warren Tech students about her years as DIY Network host and licensed contractor.A group of Warren Tech students saw their campus from a very different and fresh perspective. All have interest in engineering or architecture and were taking a tour of some of the places and spaces that Warren Tech uses for career-focused learning. As they made their way through the school’s precision machining area, a very successful Jeffco alum was with them; Kayleen McCabe, a graduate of Alameda International Jr./Sr. High School, is a licensed building contractor and TV veteran of DIY Network’s “Rescue Renovation.”

“Being an Alameda graduate, I was vaguely aware of what was happening but now that I’m here, I actually wish that I could go back to high school and become a student because the opportunities here are out of sight,” said McCabe.

Spending this much time touring with the students, gave McCabe the chance to share her own journey, which started when she was a kid, shadowing her dad while he remodeled their family home in Denver. She got the “Rescue Renovation” gig as the result of a reality show competition. Now, with her TV career behind her, she splits her time between contracting and advocating for schools like Warren Tech, and students like these young women, who want to succeed in traditionally male-dominated fields.

“I liked to see her story of how she came up, not necessarily going to college and not having that background,” said student Alex Todd.

“I loved how she was really encouraging us to do what we want. It really inspired me to put in all of that work to become an architect,” added student Lena Khaski.

“I get lost about where I want to go in life and it just helped to hear her story and how it all worked out for her in the end. It’s good to hear somebody else’s story,” concluded student Natasha Zimmerman.

McCabe hopes visits like this will help these future female contractors see what opportunities are available to them after high school.

“I hope that they understand that one, there is a whole community of female contractors that really support them and really look forward to working with them. And two, they have a lot of opportunities for careers. This is not just learning a trade, this is actually learning sustainable tools for success in life,” she said.

The tour moved on to Warren Tech’s Acres Farm, where students learn the art of urban agriculture, using the newest tools in climate controlled crop growing. This included a new Acres Farm learning space that these students are helping design and build and a visit to a Warren Tech experiment to transform shipping containers into portable greenhouses using only artificial light.

“I’m seeing things being taught here at Warren Tech that is not being taught other places in the nation, and even the world,” said McCabe. “These are cutting edge trades that are desperately needed and the students have access to them here.”

Inside the school’s STEM classroom, McCabe learned how the young women were developing projects for NASA as part of Warren Tech’s HUNCH, or High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware. A cargo bag for use in orbit was another project; an exfoliation kit for astronaut callouses is another. They told McCabe about more Earth-bound research to improve everything from recycling to wind turbines.

“I am blown away by what is happening here at Warren Tech,” exclaimed McCabe.

The informational give and take included some hard lessons McCabe learned along the way.

“She’s so enthusiastic about everything and it really made me want to do what I want to do,” said student Malaak Madhoun. “Architecture is a passion. Yes, I’ve been told that since I’m a woman, and since so many men are in it, that it’s going to be hard but I really want to do it, and she inspired me to do that.”

“She was really bubbly and friendly. She showed us even as a woman in the field that you can make it,” added student Zoe Maxwell.

McCabe was impressed with the cutting edge technology these students are learning.

“We need these students to have exposure to it because without it, where else are they going to learn,” she said.
Madhoun took a powerful message away from McCabe’s visit.

“Get that experience. Do what you love. Be the person you want to be,” she said.

See the JPS-TV version of this story here.
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