By Mason Nichols
Most of us can easily recall our childhood hangout of choice. For some, it may have been a park or playground near home. For others, “the spot” was a local restaurant. No matter the location, each of us has a place that we will forever remember as a crucial component of our younger years.
For Jacqui Scibior of Utica, N.Y., “the spot” was only a short walk across the street to the production yard of Husted Concrete Products Inc. Scibior, an NPCA Educational Foundation scholarship recipient, considers her experiences at the precast concrete facility paramount in her decision to pursue a career in civil engineering.
“We had family friends who had a son my age,” Scibior said. “His parents owned a precast concrete company. We used to see these huge things being made and all of these precast pieces in their lot. To us, it was like this awesome jungle gym. We used to just walk through them and crawl through things and be amazed at how huge they were.”
Scibior’s early admiration of the construction and engineering industries was also kick-started by her father, whose work as a general contractor and owner of a plywood company helped guide her on her career path. “I loved going to work with my dad, and I just thought it was so cool,” she said. “I was more of a tomboy, the type of person who always wanted Legos and liked to build things as opposed to playing with Barbie dolls.”
Scibior’s interests carried her to Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y., where she currently majors in civil engineering, minoring in sustainable solutions for the developing world. But before she could begin her studies, she realized she would need financial support. “When I was applying for colleges, I was keeping budget in mind, because my parents didn’t really have a lot of money and I didn’t grow up wealthy,” she said. “I knew I needed to find scholarships to be able to attend the schools I wanted to go to.”
Thankfully, Scibior’s friends at Husted Concrete Products suggested applying for the NPCAEF Scholarship, also offering to write her a recommendation letter for her application. Today, she has been afforded a slew of educational opportunities as a direct result of her financial aid.
Last year, Scibior participated in a volunteer trip to Belize where she worked on sustainable housing for families with limited access to resources. The homes, which were constructed of bags containing a mixture of dense clay and sand, sat on foundations made of car tires.
“It sounds crazy,” Scibior said. “You wouldn’t think the houses would stand up. But they looked really cool and they worked.”
During another recent trip, Scibior witnessed poor housing conditions in the U.S. Virgin Islands, noting the large number of unfinished projects scattered throughout St. Croix. After performing a bit of research, she discovered that the cost of loans – coupled with high interest rates – often prevent potential homeowners from finishing construction of their homes.
Scibior also developed an interest in sustainability, which was sparked by a high school research project on renewable energy. These trips have only furthered her dedication to green building practices. In the future, she hopes to use that dedication to spread the benefits of sustainable construction around the world. “We don’t have unlimited resources on this planet,” she said. “Things aren’t just constantly renewable.”
Last semester, Scibior wrote a research paper on sustainable housing in Haiti, exploring the use of precast concrete to combat earthquakes and other extreme weather events that affect the area. Through her studies and the continued support of NPCAEF, she recognized that specifying precast concrete is a viable and environmentally sound choice.
“A lot of the information that I now know about precast concrete has come from the resources, stories and articles I can get from NPCA,” Scibior said. “If I had a conversation with somebody and had to try and convince them why they should choose precast over a competing material, I could give them the whole spiel about why they need to choose precast.”
For some, a childhood hangout is just a memory, a lingering vision of the past and what used to be. For Scibior, it is the foundation of discovery, and the catalyst for aiding the world in the adoption of sustainable building practices – now and into the future.
Mason Nichols is NPCA’s communication coordinator. For more information about NPCA Educational Foundation scholarships, please visit precast.org/foundation or contact Marti Harrell at [email protected].