Smith Foundation gives boost to Alaskans entering construction industry


AGC Spring Smith Foundation gives boost to Alaskans entering construction

Eleven Alaskans committed to a career in the construction industry were honored with scholarships from the Stan Smith Memorial Foundation this past winter. They were presented with scholarship checks at a reception in November at the AGC of Alaska office in Anchorage.

Kathleen Castle, executive director with Alaska Construction Academies, was pleased with the large number of applications this year: 25.

Six scholarship recipients were in the University of Alaska Anchorage Construction Management program, including one in the master’s program; four were in the Alaska Laborers apprenticeship program; and one was in IBEW’s apprenticeship program.

All recipients expressed gratitude for the scholarships, which will help them buy tools and pay for tuition.

The scholarship winners were:

  • Brandon Dexter, Alaska Laborers
  • Denise Lingerfelt, IBEW
  • Melody Miller, University of Alaska Anchorage Construction Management
  • Willman Barahona, UAA Construction Management
  • David Freswick II, UAA Construction Management
  • Drew Hatter, UAA Master’s Project Management
  • Tyler R. Stockinger, Alaska Laborers
  • Anton Maxwell, Alaska Laborers
  • Jesse Wolfe, UAA Construction Management
  • Brandon N. Olinger, Alaska Laborers
  • Kong Yang, UAA Construction Management

Dexter, who is in the Alaska Laborers Training School’s apprenticeship program, said he spent three weeks at the Pipeline Training Center in Fairbanks last fall. He also obtained certification in hazardous paint and Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Dexter joined the apprenticeship program last May. “I’m a newbie,” he said.

The training school’s program provides on-the-job experience along with classroom instruction and requires a commitment of four to five years. When completed, the apprentice achieves journey worker status on the A-list at the hiring hall.

Over the summer, Dexter worked for Roger Hickel Contracting on the Mountain View Elementary remodel project. He mostly did demo work and was later dispatched to Alaska Abatement removing roofs.

Dexter, who was expecting his first child this spring, said the scholarship check will help him buy the tools for his next job.

Barahona, a student in the UAA Construction Management program, said he has been in construction all his life. “I worked for a civil contractor after high school working on storm drains and helping repair roads,” he said. But he didn’t start in construction management in college. “My major was finance, and I worked at a bank in bookkeeping,” he said. “I decided that was not for me. It was not fulfilling or satisfying. I went back to what I had done before and what I was good at.”

“I am now a junior in CM and plugging along.”

Freswick will graduate from the UAA Construction Management program in May and has a project manager job already lined up with Cats Eye Excavating. “I worked with him in a previous job (Fernum Equipment) in sales and rentals,” Freswick said. He was joined at the reception by his wife, Allison, and their 20-month-old daughter, Solana.

Freswick said the scholarship money will go toward tuition and school loans.

“The wonderful thing is everything that Stan Smith and AGC do,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here if not for their support. You won’t find another industry that is this supportive.”

Scholarship checks were presented by Bec Smith, Ron Smith, Shannon Bridwell, Galena Fechik and Mike Harneg on behalf of the Stan Smith Memorial Foundation, which funds the scholarships primarily through its annual fishing tournament. The foundation was created to honor the legacy of Stan Smith, Bec’s late husband and Ron’s brother. Stan Smith, who died in 2008, was a longtime supporter of the construction industry and the community and devoted his time to helping others pursue their dreams.

As a past director of the AGC of Alaska, Stan Smith worked with AGC to promote and improve the construction industry in Alaska. Through generous donations and support, the foundation is able to help young people entering the construction industry through scholarships and by providing training opportunities.

Ron Smith expressed appreciation for the support from scholarship sponsors, the industry and individuals who have given generously to the charitable foundation.

“My brother Stan gave selflessly to support young people in the construction industry, people getting into the apprenticeship program and the construction management program at UAA,” Ron Smith said.

Bec Smith said the funds raised by the auction on the Kenai, “where Ron opens up his place for the big fishing tournament,” make these scholarships possible. “We try to pay it forward to individuals entering the field so we can keep Alaska strong.”

Suzanne McCarthy, director of the Alaska Laborers Training School, said she was grateful for the foundation’s support of an emerging workforce.

“The Alaska Laborers Training School would like to specifically thank the Smith Foundation Scholarship committee for their support of those young people entering the construction industry. It is critical that they are supported, trained and mentored to a level of excellence.

“The support that this scholarship provides helps to remove barriers as skills are being developed,” McCarthy added. “This direct support helps the apprentice make it through those early, sometimes challenging, experiences and indirectly helps the contractors by assisting the apprentices with tools necessary for success.”

Sharon Stockard is managing editor of The Alaska Contractor.