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Mya Rodriguez-Salas Builds a Strong Foundation at Aims

Aims student Mya Rodriguez-Salas turned her love for construction into a means of personal transformation and empowerment, creating a successful career trajectory. Mya’s story is about finding her passion and following that dream. 

Mya Rodriguez-Salas

Since birth, Mya was raised by her great-grandmother. “My grandma's been my backbone in helping me,” she said. Even though the two had such a close relationship, Mya fell into the wrong crowd at school. Things turned around when she attended Jefferson High School and the Construction Pathway concurrent enrollment program through Aims and School District 6 in Greeley, Colorado. “Finding my passion for construction was a game changer because I was not a good kid,” she admitted. “It makes me a better person every day than I used to be.”

Drafting a Blueprint to a Brighter Future

A career and technical education experiential approach to learning has been growing in popularity and has benefited students like Mya. This more hands-on approach to courses sparked her quest for knowledge. Instead of completing geometry worksheets, Mya learned how to frame a house. “I started liking school at that point,” she said, “because the way they teach is a little different.” 

Mya honed carpentry skills by building homes with Greeley-Weld Habitat for Humanity during her junior year of high school. “It’s meaningful work, and I look forward to continuing that mission.” She says this experience made her a better person and more driven, as she saw deserving people in similar situations as her great-grandmother obtaining a new home. “I always get to meet the homeowners or work beside them with Habitat for Humanity and knowing after, at the end of the day, I'm giving them a home.” Mya takes pride in driving through the neighborhood and knowing that “I built those.” She identifies this as the point “where everything changed for me.”

She attained her high school diploma and certificates in the Basics of Construction Management and Construction Fundamentals. Mya worked a few construction jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic to gain experience. While on the job, she met people who encouraged her to continue her education in the field. This prompted her to meet with an Aims advisor to continue her educational journey. Mya is currently completing her Construction Management Associate Degree at Aims and plans to graduate in May. 

Mya is a first-generation student and received assistance from TRIO Student Support Services. Aims also helped her on her journey with scholarships from the Aims Foundation

“This has helped a lot because school is expensive, so it's nice knowing that just by keeping good grades, I could get help with my tuition.”

The Aims Construction & Engineering Technology department also supported Mya on her educational path and emerging mastery of building things. Phong Tram, the department Program Coordinator, helped Mya set her class schedule because he knows the available classes. This relieved Mya, “I was nervous about how it would fit into my schedule working still because I needed to work and go to school. It made me worry a little less about whether I could do it.” She also appreciated the convenience of hybrid options that Aims has available. 

While attending Aims, Mya started a work-study job with the construction program to gain more experience with the tools of the trade. This position allowed her to work in the labs on campus and tutor construction pathway high-school concurrent enrollment students in a study hall environment. Mya also had the opportunity to go to outreach events. Last fall, she represented Aims at the Northern Colorado Construction Sector Partnership’s Construction Con. “I really enjoy going to the high schools and getting the students interested in construction,” she said.

Mya Rodriguez-Salas

Excelling in Today’s Skills and Tomorrow’s Technologies

So far, one of Mya’s favorite Aims classes has been architecture since it wasn’t merely theoretical. She describes the course this way, “it's like a little game where you build the whole structure there and design it to your liking. I enjoyed it because you can use your imagination.” 

While carpentry is an area she focuses on, Mya is learning from pros in the program on other aspects of the construction industry. This includes the Department Chair and Professor John Mangin. “I learned everything from John. He started off in masonry and I do carpentry, so it's two completely different things.” Mangin guided her through areas where she struggled, such as in her estimating class. “It's nice to be able to depend on someone. If anything ever goes wrong, I know I have someone to turn to ask questions.”

In addition to providing the basic fundamentals of construction, the Aims Construction program also has an eye on new technology. Those classes are located in the Aims Applied Technology and Trades Center. This facility gives learners experience using the latest equipment and technology in a state-of-the-art teaching facility. 

Mangin advises his students to keep learning about the innovation in the industry. Mya has taken his advice to heart, “don't get comfortable with one thing because there are always new things coming in. It's always nice to be adaptable.” 

With the emergence of 3D printing in construction, skills like house framing may be phased out in the coming decades. With that, Mya is enthusiastic to be at the forefront of these new construction techniques in addition to her more traditional proficiencies. 

Mya was the only student who spoke at a high-profile press conference that announced the 3D printing construction company Alquist 3D is moving its headquarters to Greeley.  The company is partnering with Aims to incorporate its technology into the curriculum and train the workforce. She is excited about exploring this innovative technology, its tremendous impact on the industry, and the opportunities it brings to her and other Aims students. Later this month, Mya will start an internship with Alquist 3D. 

“I look forward to adding to my skill set and being on the cutting edge of these sustainable building techniques. It will make me more marketable when I look for jobs in the industry.”

In addition to her well-rounded construction expertise, Mya also stands out in the workforce because she is a female in a male-dominated industry.  “I love breaking these stereotypes, proving my confidence and dispelling misconceptions. It has only increased my drive and perseverance to strive in this career,” she said. 

Looking forward, Mya's path is bright and ambitious. Empowered with knowledge, skill, and an insatiable desire to learn, Mya looks ahead to a future that promises to be as strong and resilient as the structures she loves to build.