HOUSTON Houston s Police Chief argues one of the best ways to fight crime is with jobs. Houston Community College is one ofseven places in the country trying a federal program that offers a high school diploma, construction job skills and even college credit all in one place.

Laura Jimenez, 18, became one of the students after she became pregnant.Now,she is up each day at 7 a.m., dressing her 7-month-old son and getting ready to catch the bus to HCC.

I never expected to be a mother so young.Everything I do is a reflection of what s gonna happen in the future for me and him, she said.

At 16, Laura had dropped out of Jeff Davis high school.She skipped class and got in trouble a lot.In two short years, she s learned a lot.

She is one of two dozen students in a pilot workforce program at HCC s central campus.The high school students take academic classes in the morning and job skill classes focusing on construction in the afternoon.

The program is funded by the Department of Education in part to target at-risk kids.

If it wasn t for this program, I don t know where I d be, said Laura.

There is no cost to the students.When they complete their 11th and 12th grade year at the construction academy, they will have an OSHA certificate and a Carpenter s Helpers certificate.They will also have access to a jobs pipeline made up of local companies.

Program director of the Academy for Construction Technology Jerome Washington notes it focuses heavily on construction management.

With the money coming in from the Obama administration for the infrastructure, the industry has enough laborers but they don t have enough of the construction management, he said.

It also pushes students to two and four-year colleges, which is where Laura is headed now.

She wants to build something that lasts. Holding her now 7-month-old son, Laura says, I want to give him everything, or at least try, give him a better life than I had.

Click here to find out more information on the program.

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