Building towards the future at CCA

If you build it, they will come


Angelica Villarreal almost let fear stand in the way of her future. She applied to Construction Careers Academy as an eighth grader, but hesitated to accept.

“I was scared,” Villarreal said. “I’m a girl and it’s not as common to see us in construction. Coming here, I didn’t expect to learn so much so quickly. You jump right in with a basics course and earn certifications. I thought it would take a while to get that hands-on experience.”

Now a senior at CCA, she’s been accepted into the construction management program at Texas State University and earned an almost $50,000 scholarship. When she graduates next June, she’ll be leaving Northside with industry certifications and enough college credits through St. Phillips College that she’ll be mostly done with her freshman year of courses.

“I had no idea that this was what I wanted to do. My teacher Mr. Paul had the biggest impact in helping me figure it out,” Villarreal said. “I want to be successful and a female representative of this industry. I know it’s hard but it’s possible.”

Those are some big accomplishments and big goals for someone who had no connection to construction prior to attending CCA.

The magnet school has become known for its student-built tiny homes in the past, but even bigger projects are on the way. The junior class is working on two of the school’s biggest undertakings – renovating an old NISD school bus into a “Skoolie” home on wheels and designing and building a 60-foot home. It’s this type of hands-on learning that brought students like Diego Chapa to CCA. The senior in the carpentry strand is currently building a 30-by-60-foot engineering lab with his classmates.

“It doesn’t feel like school,” Chapa said. “It makes the best two hours of my day to do what I love.”

Chapa’s goal is to become a project manager and manage job sites around the world. He said he can combine the leadership skills learned at CCA with those he gained as a brass captain in the Warren HS band. He was accepted into the construction science program at Texas A&M University and is applying for internships. He’ll go into college with most of his pre-requisite courses taken care of thanks to Advanced Placement and Dual Credit courses at CCA.

“I came in with not a lot of experience but even if you don’t want a career in construction, this school equips you with skills you need in life no matter what,” Chapa said.

Octavio Medina grew up running behind his dad as he worked on projects.

“CCA was the only magnet I applied to,” Medina said. “My love for construction brought me here. It’s not just construction though, they teach you how to be good humans in general.”

The senior in the construction management strand will also be studying construction science at Texas A&M next fall. As his time at CCA draws to a close, Medina said his favorite experience is his current project – designing and building a garden shed.

“This project has just summed up the previous three years here,” Medina said. “We got to design it and create it from our imaginations.”

CCA offers students six strands of study – Architecture and Design, Construction Management, Applied Engineering, Carpentry, Electrical/HVAC or Plumbing/Pipe Fitting/Welding.

The school is hosting two open houses and will take part in the two District Magnet School Fairs in December. The full schedule can be found here.

Applications are open until Jan. 14 for the 2022-23 school year and are available on the Magnet Hub website.