Rep. Yusuf Hakeem, who represents State House District 28, claims his role in establishing a new vocational center in Chattanooga’s Avondale neighborhood has been overlooked by state and local officials.
“For seven years, I’ve been working and tilling the ground for a trade school and getting something in the neighborhood to help people prepare for jobs,” Rep. Hakeem explained. “Building up the interest and need for the construction of the school concept started when I was in city council. For five years, while I was on city council, (District 1 City Councilman)
Chip Henderson and I worked to be part of this process.”
Rep. Hakeem said he and his many years of hard work were overlooked, “disrespected” and “not recognized” in late October when Gov. Bill Lee joined project funders and stakeholders–as well as city, state, community, educational and industry leaders–to break ground on the new Construction Career Center at 2225 Roanoke Ave.
“You have a legislator who for seven years has been working on this project, to not be recognized at the opening is just disrespectful,” Rep. Hakeem said. “It just bothers me, and I’m offended that they basically kicked us to the side and did not involve us in the development of the board, or include us in any participation in the planning process.”
The 28,000 square foot career center is replacing the former Mary Ann Garber School in Chattanooga’s Avondale neighborhood–which is located in City Council District 9–where Rep. Hakeem served as councilman from 1990 to 2006, and again from 2013 to 2017. He was elected the first vice chairman when elected in 1990.
A collaborative public and private partnership that aims to combat labor shortages in the high-demand field of construction trades, the vocational facility will serve as a centerpiece for construction education and training for Hamilton County high school students and adults, and a career and industry center for construction professionals.
At capacity, the school will serve 160 high school students and 40 adults per day through dual enrollment programs at Hamilton County high schools and Chattanooga State Community College/Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Chattanooga, and will hold 200 people in the event space. It will be the first such vocational learning center since Kirkman Technical High School closed in 1991.