Susan Duerksen is the communications director at the Center for Policy Initiatives, based in San Diego.

More Bang for the Tax Dollar: Building Schools and Careers in San Diego

Susan Duerksen

Inside a tangle of scaffolding that rises above the modest homes of a south-central San Diego neighborhood, a new energy-efficient school is taking shape.

On the second floor of the skeletal structure, a young man in a hardhat carefully measures and bends a metal conduit to a precise angle. Then he climbs a ladder and connects the thin pipe to an electrical switch box on the ceiling, where it eventually will hold wires over the heads of middle-school students.

The young worker is Artem Voloshanovskiy. A year ago, he was selling used cars and wondering where his life was headed. Now he's an apprentice with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). At age 22, he's learning a trade and building a solid career while proudly helping build a state-of-the-art school.