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Syosset student constructs her own future at Nassau BOCES Barry Tech

Abby Cushing

Meet Abigail (Abby) Cushing, Syosset UFSD and Barry Tech Construction Electricity student at Nassau BOCES Barry Tech…she has big plans for the future. Not only does she have job offers lined up, she wants to eventually own her own all-female construction company to offer services to women in need.

Abby spends her afternoons studying Construction Electricity at Nassau BOCES Barry Tech, where she is known as the “construction girl,” at the Nassau BOCES premier Career & Technical Education (CTE) High School in Westbury. Each February, students like Abby are celebrated for achievements and accomplishments during CTE Month. It’s also a time to raise awareness about the role CTE has in readying students for careers and college.

As the third female student in 30 years to attend the Construction Electricity program at Barry Tech, Abby is making huge strides in the field, winning first place in the 2018 SkillsUSA competition for Construction Electricity. SkillsUSA is a national organization that specializes in serving students in career and technical education schools. Abby is the only female to ever take first place in the construction electric competition.

“After I won,” Abby recalls, “the judge that checked over my project came up to my dad and said, ‘As soon as she graduates, let me know, we want to hire her and there are a lot of other people who are asking the same question – who is this person, and when can we hire her.’”

Barry Tech Construction Electricity Teacher James McKillop says, “Abby possesses an excellent work ethic and takes a lot of pride in every project she works on. When she first entered the program, I noticed her male classmates were skeptical, but Abby handled the situation and quickly gained her classmates respect by quietly doing superior work.”

To Abby, construction electric work comes naturally. Growing up, she was always outside, building. She taught herself how to work with her hands and how to build things from scratch, from go-karts to free-standing houses. But, when an arthritis diagnosis threatened to get in her way of using her creative construction skills for a career, Abby did not give up. Her family and teachers encouraged her to look into Barry Tech, and when she visited her sophomore year of high school, she impressed the teacher with skills she didn’t even know she possessed.

“The teacher showed me how to do some wiring. I did it with ease, and his eyes just lite up. He said I had done it better than the students who had been taking the class all semester” she said. Once she entered the program, Abby’s work ethic increased drastically, and she made the honor roll for the first time ever. She recalls, “My grades shot up, because I was so happy here.”

“As a returning second year student, Abby is recognized by her peers as an excellent student who continues to excel,” McKillop continues. “As her teacher, I am proud to see what she has

accomplished and how well she has developed her skills. I am confident that she will be very successful upon graduation!” 

Abby is excited that she has one less year of apprenticeship that she has to complete because of her Barry Tech education and has already mapped out her future after graduation. She wants to apply to a union, start her own female construction business, and possibly even come back to Barry Tech to teach. “If I did ever come back to Barry Tech, I could encourage more girls to join,” she said. “I know girls that are good at this kind of stuff and they just won’t do it because they’re scared. But if there was a girl thinking about coming to Barry Tech and joining a male dominated program, I would tell them that this program is amazing. The people here fully support you, and you should just try it.”

She credits her success to her extremely supportive family, and her team of educators at both Syosset High School and Barry Tech, who all push her to do her best in a field that she loves. “This helped me to become so confident and I learned exactly who I am,” she says. “Girls especially don’t get the recognition for some things they do, and in this program you do. This is all you. Nobody does anything for you; you make this all yourself.”