Alumni Spotlight of the Month

Artboard 1 Announcements Featured Alumni Profiles
icon-clock September 28, 2022

“In life there are many walls that you will need to climb, and GCF is a grappling hook that can help you climb over any obstacle to reach a better life. Thank you for pushing me to be a better person in my adulthood.”

Matthew Lajara

Graduated: 2021, Cohort 21

From: Wagner Houses, Manhattan

Current Position: Masonry/Bricklayer with Local Union #1

Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 1, NY is dedicated to the craft of bricklaying, stonesetting, stone tending, masonry restoration and plastering. With over 5000 of the most talented masonry craft workers hailing not just from the New York City and Long Island area but from around the world, these Union members are responsible for some of the “who’s who” of buildings, including Grand Central Terminal, Yankee Stadium, Citifield, the World Trade Center Memorial, the Chrysler Building, the Met-Life Building, the American Museum of Natural History, Lincoln Center, the Cloisters, the Frick, the Metropolitan Museum, as well as thousands of office and residential buildings.


What does your typical work day look like?

“My typical day looks like either doing demolitions on the wall or laying brick on a new wall, whether it be on a suspended scaffolding or a pipe scaffolding.”

How does your GCF experience help you in your position? 

“I didn’t recall knowing what to do at the time but GCF pushed me to grow and in the end I became a better person. 


About Matthew’s career pathway:

After graduating the Service Corps, Matthew enrolled in Energy Bootcamp to receive advanced training. He was then hired through GCF’s Social Enterprise in a Trystate contract HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) project. In January 2022, GCF recommended Matthew for an opportunity through NYCHA’s Office of Resident Economic Empowerment and Sustainability (REES) with the Pointers, Cleaners, and Caulkers (PCC) Local Union #1. In February, ongoing support from GCF allowed Matthew to enter a necessary full-time, six-week unpaid training despite limited economic resources. The partnership included weekly check-ins with GCF staff to overcome barriers to training success and funding for gear and a metrocard.  In March, Matthew was hired as an apprentice in the PCC union, earning $28/hr.  Today, he works as a bricklayer with Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local Union 1 earning $31/hr.  

What advice do you have for current Corps Members?

“Always keep pushing yourself and always take opportunities that are presented in front of you.”


What’s your favorite GCF memory?

“My favorite experience has to be when I worked with Farmer John – whenever he used to come to the farm, the guy knew his stuff and he was a ray of sunshine everywhere he went. May he rest in peace.”


Achievements at Green City Force:

Being hired through GCF’s Social Enterprise with Trystate


“Before GCF I wasn’t really doing much but staying at home with my family and hanging out with my friends. One day my mom showed me this flyer and told me about the program. At first I wasn’t interested but when I saw previous Corps Members supporting my community I wanted to join in with the program. I joined GCF because I always loved to give a helping hand when it’s needed, no matter what the situation is – it’s just in my nature to help others. I think the most important thing that I have learned in GCF is to always support your fellow peers and work together to become more efficient.”



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