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The Ann Arbor Student Building Industry Program


Alumni classes from 1996 through 2005 are listed here.

An Open Letter from a Former Ann Arbor Student Builder 

The following letter was received by the Board, from former student John Gabrielsen, as we were celebrating our 20th anniversary and still holds true today.

It has been 15 years since I completed the Student Building Industry Program. Although I have earned three college degrees since then, culminating most recently with an MBA in Finance from the University of Michigan, I still consider the initial launch of my success to be firmly planted in the fundamental characteristics instilled in me through the vocational education experiences in Junior and Senior High School.

I feel strongly that my case represents an example of a group of students that falls through the "cracks" of the traditional educational system especially in a "high academic achievement" community such as Ann Arbor.  Since I am unlikely to be in the Ann Arbor area on June 8, 1990 (the celebration of the program's 20th year), I decided to take a few minutes to put my thoughts on the subject down in writing. 

The best label I could put on the subject group would be "High Potential/Low Self Esteem". Everybody who meets them tells them, "I know you can do so much better". The classical approach is for a counselor to steer these people away from vocational education since they feel the student cannot afford to take any time away from their academic studies. I maintain that this just makes matters worse, because, the problem is, you can't make them believe they are good just be telling them, you need to find a way for them to prove it to themselves. I believe that the vocational education experience was what finally started me on the path to believing in myself, and, I maintain that it can and would do the same thing for many others who are in the same situation today. 

I attended the Student Home Building Program over my counselor's dead body. Please do what you can to encourage counselors to route people like myself into vocational education instead of doing what my counselors tried to do with me. Rather than fear that someone with high potential will go astray in vocational education, they must be brought to understand that if the individual in fact has the potential, then they will rise to it on their own once they have developed the necessary requisite self-confidence, the bigger tragedy is that if they never begin to develop the necessary self-confidence, they may never reach their potential. 

Fifteen years out of High School, it makes very little difference that one avoided taking a couple of the LS&A classes in college by taken an AC or AP class in High School. On the other hand, think of the improved success potential an individual might have if they approach everything they do in life with a higher level of self-confidence developed through time spent in vocational education courses.

Today my wife is my strongest supporter and booster of my self-confidence.  When I sell myself short, or lose track of our objectives, she nudges me back on track. I would never have made it through the MBA program without her support. But, High School students don’t have wives or "significant others" who are mature enough to serve that role at that significant launching point.  For many of them, vocational education can fill that need.


John Gabrielsen

Join the Alumni Associtaion
The Ann Arbor Student Home Building Program is currently putting together an alumni association. If you are an alumni of the program or would like more information please e-mail We'd love to hear from you!