Female students enroll, thrive in typically male CTE programs at William Floyd High School
BY NICOLE FUENTES
They’re not enrolled in cosmetology or medical assisting: These Career and Technical Education (CTE) students at William Floyd High School are breaking down walls as some of the few females enrolled in carpentry and automotive courses. This year, the high school’s CTE programs have four female students: two enrolled in carpentry and two enrolled in automotive classes.
“It’s been a goal of ours for several years,” said assistant principal Rob Felicetta, who also oversees the CTE programs, of enrolling female students in typically male courses. “We saw a need for a lot of reasons. It really rises up the potential of all the students.”
William Floyd currently offers eight in-house CTE courses to juniors and seniors, including automotive, barbering, business, carpentry, cosmetology, culinary arts, medical assisting and small engine repair. The hope is that the female student populations in courses like automotive and carpentry will continue to grow. Next year, automotive already has three female students interested, possibly their largest population to date, and two female students interested in carpentry.
“I really think it’s amazing. We are really starting to see the walls come down and our female students excelling in these courses,” added CTE lead teacher Allison Wiegand. “It’s a whole new ballgame for women.”
Lauren Chavez, 16, and Giovanna Capitello, 16, both 11th graders at William Floyd High School, took on the challenge and joined carpentry to be more “hands-on” throughout the day.
And are they ever: Chavez and Capitello, among their 30 or so male cohorts, have been learning since September the ins and outs of the field — including roofing, electrical and spackling — with encouraging and supportive carpentry CTE teacher Mathew Van Horne at the helm.
According to Van Horne, Chavez and Capitello are not the first female carpentry students in his seven years teaching at William Floyd. Since then, Van Horne said, he has taught five females, including them.
“I do think a lot of girls are somewhat scared to take carpentry, thinking it’s more for boys, but there’s actually tons of females in the field and a lot of opportunity for them,” Van Horne said, hoping to encourage others to joined. “[Capitello and Chavez] are some of my best students.”
Back in ninth grade, the girls were introduced to a similar type of learning when they joined a more specific geometry class called Geometry in Construction.
“I was immediately more interested,” said Chavez, remembering her time as a freshman.
Chavez said she ultimately joined to follow in the footsteps of her electrician brother, while Capitello joined because she always enjoyed helping her barber father around the house.
“[Her family’s] first reaction was a little weary because I was going to join a class full of boys,” Capitello said, explaining what had happened when she first expressed interest in the class.
However, according to Capitello and Chavez, both have been welcomed by their male peers and find themselves challenging each other.
“To other girls thinking about joining, I would say, ‘Don’t be nervous,’” Chavez said, offering some encouragement. “Just push yourself and do it.”
Both Capitello and Chavez said they would be completing the CTE program next year as seniors. As for their futures: Chavez said she was exploring different carpentry pathways and thinking about interior design as well; Capitello said though she really enjoyed it, she was leaning toward a degree in nursing as her mother and older sister have, though she felt that what she has learned in the course would ultimately help her in her future personal life.
“We never have to rely on anyone else,” Capitello said.
“And we won’t have to pay people to do [the work] if we know how to do it ourselves,” added Chavez.
Also, later this month, Capitello will be attending the Skills USA competition at Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus. If she places, she will move on to a state competition in Syracuse.
“You can do anything a guy can do,” Capitello said, reminding fellow women to fight for what they want.
Senior Morgan Molinary and junior Joselyn Noriega are first- and second-year automotive students, respectively, at William Floyd High School two of five in the program since its inception about seven years ago.
Molinary said she joined having had grown up with an older brother in the industry. Noriega joined the program after being encouraged by Molinary and inspired to one day take over her family business.
“At first, my family definitely thought I was crazy,” Molinary said of their initial reactions. “But I have really learned a lot.”
Though they said they felt the boys in the program judged them at first, the boys have been a little more accepting since proving themselves in the program as some of the top students.
“You might get a lot of negativity, but just go for it,” Molinary said, encouraging other female students to join if they want. “If you have an interest in it, just do it. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.”
“Do whatever your heart feels like doing, and don’t care what anyone else says,” Noriega added. “Prove them wrong and try your hardest.”
Graduating this year, Molinary has plans to attend Suffolk County Community College, then possibly the University of Northern Ohio for its automotive programs. Still a few years away, Noriega expressed the same interest.
Both Molinary and Noriega are certified in Automotive Service Excellence exams. Noriega eventually wants to take over her family business or maybe even go farther, depending on what the future holds. Molinary said that in addition to setting up her own shop, she eventually wanted to open up some sort of a learning facility specifically for females interested in automotive studies.
“The industry has changed since I started in the late 70s,” CTE automotive tech teacher Daniel Rupracht said, encouraging more female students to join. “It’s more friendly now to both genders. The one thing I like about my female students is their attention to detail and they’re always more willing to do the work; their egos don’t get in the way.” n