Construction student inspires others to succeed



When Leilanna Barrientes first started college right out of high school, it wasn’t a positive experience.

“I kind of got lost,” she recently shared, “and couldn’t finish my program. But with added maturity, I realized how important getting an education was for my future and to set an example for my kids.”

Leilanna believes you are never too old to learn and praises the construction pre-apprenticeship training and mentoring she received through the ANEW program. In fact, her son, a senior in high school, is now doing the same pre-apprenticeship program Leilanna benefitted from a decade ago.

One of her ANEW mentors shared that Leilanna, “excelled with every contractor… all while continuing to be a reliable steward for our training program.  As you know, the most important thing for the construction industry is dependability, safety and through every position, she has demonstrated that.”

After several years working in construction, Leilanna wanted to take the next step and grow her industry knowledge and career opportunities. That brought her to the highly-regarded Construction Management program at RTC with the goal to get her associate degree and be in a position to manage big projects.

In 2021, she was one of the first recipients of the McLennaghan Education Scholarship. Founded by Robert and Bonnie McLennaghan, the full-ride tuition support seeks to foster excellence in construction training, and lower barriers for students to pursue their degrees.

As a mother of three children, the added financial support made all the difference and meant she could finish her degree on time and focus on her studies.

"When I was younger, I never knew opportunities like this were available to people like me. So much of it comes down to knowledge and knowing what is possible."

In addition to her school work and family, Leilanna volunteers to share her success story with young people. "It's important to talk about what success looks like, what it feels like, so others can see themselves doing great things and getting an education," she says, "You never know whose life will be changed because you shared your story."

Leilanna Barrientes operating a backhoe with hardhat

After several, successful years in construction, Leilanna Barrientes is now earning her associates degree in Construction Management to grow her career.