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Building the future: Elk Grove High School inspires girls to explore construction careers

Published October 27, 2023

Elk Grove High School teacher Sara Zielinski says she originally went to college to study aerospace engineering. Then on the job, she realized that it wasn’t what she wanted in a career.

That’s one of the reasons she helped organize Women+ in Construction, a half-day field trip on October 3 for more than a dozen current and former students from her Geometry in Construction class at Elk Grove High School.

“I think anything that high school students can do to understand and learn about potential careers is really important. Even if you learn that you don’t like a field, you’ve learned more about what you want in the future,” said Zielinski, who altered her own career path to teach engineering.

The field trip took students to Civiltech Engineering in Itasca, where the group heard from women who work as architects, civil engineers, marketing and graphics specialists. The Civiltech team discussed recent projects, as well as their individual roles and responsibilities. Student activities included using different tools to measure the amount of pipe needed on a site; planning a sidewalk; and mapping out a city using building blocks. Students analyzed construction drawings, estimated costs and evaluated structures.

They also had the opportunity to ask questions of the Civiltech professionals. “It was eye-opening,” Zielinski said. “A lot of women end up in construction, but not as many think about construction management. It’s important to me that these students are exposed to the career possibilities they have. I want them to have every single opportunity anyone else would get.”

She emphasizes the expansion of opportunities for women in engineering and construction. “Women are not only welcome, but expected to be in this field—it’s for anyone who’s interested in problem solving, and in making the world a better place,” she said.

This was the second EGHS’ Women+ in Construction event; last year, students spent a day doing hands-on exploration of the construction trades. And Zielinski promises there’s more to come. “I’d like to develop this into something even bigger,” she said.