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Meet Harbor School alumna Awa Sylla

By Helene Hetrick
December 31, 2019
Harbor School instructor Clarke Dennis (left), NYHS alumna Awa Sylla (center) and Harbor School instructor Brendan Malone (right)

In mid-December, the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School held its annual Professional Advisory Committee meeting on Governors Island. Among 60+ industry partners, who attended on behalf of the school’s seven Career & Technical Education programs, was Harbor School grad Awa Sylla. Awa (pictured below) graduated from the Marine Systems Technology CTE program, and has since landed a job at Ironworkers Local 580.

“My CTE at the Harbor School introduced me to welding, and helped me decide what I wanted to pursue after high school,” says Awa. “I attended CO-OP Tech to make myself a better asset, so I would be able to knock down some of the obstacles to getting into Local 580.

Along with attending welding school, Awa attended Non Traditional Employment for Women, a pre-apprenticeship program to increase her chances of being hired.

Awa is now an apprentice with Local 580, working in downtown Brooklyn as an ornamental ironworker. “I work in the tallest building in Brooklyn called Brooklyn Point” explains Awa. “Here I caulk the joints of the window panels we install, waterproof those panels, and weld here and there.”

Clarke Dennis, a former member of Billion Oyster Project’s staff, now working as an instructor at the Harbor School, recalls Awa’s time in high school. “Awa is an amazing person. I met her when I first started with BOP. She was tenacious in her pursuit of a career in welding. She set a high bar in terms of expectations of future students.”

At the Billion Oyster Project, we love to see these success stories coming out of our flagship school, and students going out into the world with a hands-on understanding of their natural environment. We can’t wait to see more students explore non-traditional career options and follow in the footsteps of graduates like Awa. 

“As a student, my biggest learning from Clarke is that [the welding field] is not easy” says Awa. “Tardiness and making silly mistakes won’t cut it.” I really appreciate the patience and acknowledgements that both Brendan and Clarke gave me to help me be the best that I can be. They are incredible assets to the Harbor School and BOP.”


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