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A Career in Plumbing: Starr's Story

If you would've told me 19 years ago that I was going to be instructing students on how to do a skill that I picked up along the way, I would've called you crazy. But the proof is in the pudding. You don't have to be a master plumber to make money in the plumbing field. The skills that they get leaving up out of here, they can leave and make a good career for themselves. My name is Starr Delgado. I am the HPI Plumbing instructor in Grafton Job Corps. We're in North Grafton, Massachusetts, right down the street from west of Massachusetts, right up the block from Boston, Massachusetts. I always knew that plumbers made a lot of money because we used to take trips up to Hampton Beach. One of my older family members would be like, "Look at all the houses up there. That's where all the plumbers live."

So that stuck in my head, that the plumbers lived in big houses up on the top of the hill. And if we didn't get our (beep) together, we wouldn't be able to get what the plumbers got. I came to Job Corps 1998. Originally, I wanted to do CNA, but I got terminated from the program. Didn't want to follow the rules. Didn't want to follow instructions. I found myself somewhere where no kid thinks they're going to end up. Thank God I had people to push me to do the right thing. And I ended up coming back for a second time, completed my high school diploma, and found myself with the HBI instructor. He took me under his wings, bring me down to this shop, and I just took off with it.

After being an apprentice for five years, I came back to work for HBI here on center as an instructor. It's given me a lifestyle where I don't have to rent anymore. I own my own home. I have savings. My son is eight, and he has a savings. When he is graduating from high school, he'll be able to buy his own car. These are things that were not set in place for me, but they will be for my kids and my grandkids. In my house is my husband and my stepdaughter and her two children and my son. After work, we usually just play around in the yard. 9 out of 10 times, my husband's cooking something on the grill. Plumbing allows me a lot of free time. I can just enjoy my family. They get to enjoy me and drive me crazy. But it's all good.

The most rewarding thing for me is the students. You get to give back. Somebody's going to have my story. Somebody's going to say, "I had this instructor, her name was Ms. Delgado. She never gave up on me." The hardest of the hardest kids come up through these doors and they turn out to be something amazing. I think I'm something amazing. There's always going to be challenges for women in the field. People are always going to say you can't or you shouldn't or don't. But if you say, "I'm going to, I can and I will," and stay focused, you can do it. You just have to have some thick skin. Being a plumber is an amazing career to be. I didn't think so when I was a kid, but I love it now. And if my son wants to be a plumber, that's okay with me. My name is Starr Delgado, and I'm a plumber.