As a resident of the Beverly neighborhood, I was excited to hear about the opening of the south terminal of the 95th Street Red Line stop. Along with plans to renovate the north terminal, as well as possible Red Line expansion all the way to 130th Street, this has excited many Southside residents. Although conversation always steers around "community development" and "community investment", many don't know the "story behind the story"...because for FH Paschen, a local construction and consulting firm, the 95th Street station is more than just another project...it's part of their effort to invest in the greater community, both through its direct work and through the Paschen Scholar program to foster the next generation of engineers and STEM professionals.
According to Chuck Freiheit, COO of Paschen, diversity and inclusion are strong, consistent values within the organization. Partnering with Milhouse Engineering on the project, Paschen took their efforts a step further. Citing the city and CTA's "good program for diverse hiring", Paschen worked with the Urban League to find local WIOA-qualifying workers for the project. (The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act provides small stipends for "dislovated or disadvantaged" employees; I'm proud to say that I received WIOA funding for marketing training through DePaul Kellstadt ). But Paschen also worked with local community organizations, as well as sought opportunities from local neighborhood businesses where possible in moving this project forward. (To put it simply, every day was "Shop Local Saturday" for the 95th Street Terminal Project).
Although the completion of the South Terminal is the first part of a two-part project, there are "always lessons to learn on projects" as Chuck Freiheit put it. One of the great advantages to this project was that it was daunting to construct a new terminal over an active railroad. Not only has this project enabled Paschen to engage their overall mission of diversity and inclusion in their transit projects, but their willingness to outreach and engage the greater South side community have built on the company's legacy. Several key lessons for the 95th Street Red Line Terminal project include consistent communication with all partners, minimizing the impact to local residents as best as they can, and maintaining appropriate traffic flow/station operations. Collaborating with partners and the delivery method of the project are not always simply...but Paschen is ready to face the challenge.
But it's another Paschen-based community-minded program that really impressed me...because it's not just a one-time investment, but a commitment to expanding opportunities and access for underserved communities.
In 2015, Paschen initiated a partnership with Westinghouse College Prep focusing on engineering and STEM-related fields. The Paschen Scholar program is a three-year internship program focused on supporting students exploring the engineering, construction, and architecture fields. Every year, six students enter the program and receive guidance and insight. But this isn't just another structured program...
For Ramon Quinto, a Gage Park resident and one of Westinghouse's Paschen Scholars, it has been a great experience. Although he was always interested in math and science, Ramon explained that he was never sure what he could do with those interests until he applied for the program thanks to a class speaker, With a combination of classroom instruction and field experience during the summers, Ramon was introduced to various aspects of construction. This involved actual site visits (including the 95th Street Terminal project) but also learning the "nuts and bolts of construction". Ramon not only gained insight into the various types of engineering (like chemical engineering, architecture, and electrical), but also into the actual breakdown of projects (including budgeting, bidding, and other processes). It's more than just revealing a worksite to a student; it is a rare chance to "peek behind the curtains" to see how the construction field works.
And what has been the end result for Ramon Quinto? He's now preparing for college and is taking AP Calculus, Physics, and Engineering. Other experts are coming to his school, and he is excited about pursuing a career in engineering. (He's not sure yet what kind of engineering will be his professional specialty...but he's thinking about it). He credits the Paschen scholar program with helping him apply leadership and project management skills to class projects: identifying roles, building collaborations, and knowing how to work with others. Ramon also credits the Paschen Scholar program with helping him discover and know his options, and that he is aware of his possible directions and motivating him to explore a field that he enjoys. In addition, Ramon also enjoys his involvement with Paschen because it "benefits society in the future".
That quality makes Paschen and its work worth highlighting - they take the ideas of community engagement and community investment to a higher level. Their work is not just about building a pool of potential hires or "getting a project done", but also focuses on the greater good. Encapsulating all of my notes and insights from my conversations with Chuck Freiheit and Ramon Quinto into one single blog post is a daunting task, but one thing remains: FH Paschen is working hard to ensure that they are a "good neighbor" within the community, working in a place where social enterprise and private industry intersect and providing services that benefit the larger Chicago community.
I don't think I can put it any simpler than that....and they're a neighbor worth knowing.
(Special thanks to Chuck Freiheit of FH Paschen and Ramon Quinto of Westinghouse College Prep for their time and insight)