Our Story

Our founders have been an integral part of the homebuilding community for decades, as well as fierce advocates for education and advancement.

The Academy was formed through the merger of BuildStrong Education and the non-profit training program Colorado Construction Institute (CCI). BuildStrong Education was created over 20 years ago by Oakwood Homes to improve education in the Denver Metro community and CCI provided construction training to Colorado residents, both youth and adults, starting in 2012.

A serious problem facing Colorado’s construction industry is a persistent shortage of skilled labor. At a time of record industry expansion, construction employers struggle to find enough qualified workers to meet market needs. Colorado Homebuilding Academy was founded specifically to address this labor issue. Through a series of innovative, industry-driven training programs for youth and adults, the Academy is building a highly-skilled labor force that can meet the demands of Colorado’s expanding construction industry.

Colorado Homebuilding Academy is also supported by a partnership with University of Denver–Franklin L. Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management. The Academy also receives support from the Precision Building Systems team, who provide physical space for our training and administration.

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Academy Staff

OPERATIONS TEAM

Damon DiFabio, Director

Damon DiFabio is a longtime educator from Colorado Springs, and recently took the helm of the Colorado Homebuilding Academy this summer after finishing his sixth year as Principal at Career Readiness Academy.

Over his career in education, DiFabio has also taught at the elementary level, and held Assistant Principal roles at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels. During this time, he had the opportunity to build relationships with students, helping them gain employment skills for the construction trades and then supporting their transition into building careers. Damon intends to leverage this experience to increase the Academy’s impact in the local Denver Metro community and with its construction and homebuilding business partners.

Contact Damon

Roberto Hernández, Systems and Operations Manager [Bilingual]

Prior to joining the Academy, Roberto worked as a small business consultant and contractor for Denver-based organizations, and learned how to design and build websites to boost his software and coding background. Before moving to Denver, he worked in Washington D.C. to direct operations, data management, and human capital support for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Afghanistan team. Roberto also served four years with the Peace Corps in Paraguay, S.A. (where he met his future wife, Bonnie) as a small business development advisor and program coordinator. Robert holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and procurement from the University of San Diego and is an amateur photographer and guitar player.

Contact Roberto

Sydney Sachs, Builder and Contractor Outreach

Sydney began her career in the construction industry shortly after graduating from the University of Denver, where she received a B.A. in Communications. With a background in marketing, she spent three years working for a trade association in the commercial sector focusing on event planning, marketing, and trade outreach. She is passionate about workforce development and educating people about the valuable careers available in the construction industry, and she has a history of success with connecting trade schools, students, and industry professionals. In her free time, Sydney loves plant-based cooking, road biking, and exploring Colorado with her black lab, Hank.

Contact Sydney

Brian Dare

Brian Dare, Recruiter

Few things excite Brian more than helping people discover their value through full lives and meaningful work. After receiving a Master of Arts and Master of Divinity, he spent three years in the financial sector followed by ten years of clergy work. That time was spent helping individuals find hope in times of crises and direction in their lives and relationships. Brian’s nonprofit experience includes community outreach, volunteer training and recruitment, crises management, goal setting, and financial and vocational guidance. Brian is an avid bike commuter, a fan of almost all kinds of music, a hobby photographer and acoustic guitar player. Brian also loves going on regular dates his wife, and has three wonderful children.

Contact Brian

Kristin Davenport

Kristin Davenport, Career Coach

Kristin Davenport is a native Coloradan and graduated from the Art Institute of Colorado with a Culinary Arts degree. Kristin has spent much of her career working in Corporate America as a recruiter for several Fortune 100 Companies (IBM, Comcast, UnitedHealthcare). Kristin previously worked for the City and County of Denver on the WIOA (Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act) Grant where she worked with employers all over the Denver Metro area to find the youth of Denver sustainable employment. Kristin has been a recruiter in the construction field for the last several years and looks forward to assisting CHA students/graduates with networking, resume building, interviewing skills and making introductions to employers in the CHA network. In her spare time, Kristin enjoys going camping, fishing and attending rock concerts with her husband, she is also known to throw dinner parties from time to time.

Contact Kristin

Irazu

Irazú Hernández, Operations Assistant/WorkNow Navigator [Bilingual]

After graduating from the University of Denver with a B.A in Sociology and Spanish, Irazu began her career in Community Engagement. After traveling to the heart of Community Organizing, San Jose, California- for a 9-month activist training, she soon realized that her passion was rooted within her community and the people. As a young immigrant Latina growing up in West Denver, she understood the importance of becoming the voice of those who do not have one. Irazu now supports students at the Colorado Homebuilding Academy achieve their construction career goals by breaking down any social and economic barriers. Irazu enjoys exploring nature’s hidden gems while backpacking with her soulmate.

Contact Irazú

INSTRUCTORS

John

John Kio, Lead Instructor – Construction Management

John has been married for 36 years and currently has 3 adult children and 3 grandchildren. He is a life-long building contractor. He custom builds homes from the ground up. He is also a life-long missionary and has been involved in inner-city missions as well as overseas. John has also been a teacher for many years, including vacation bible school, Bible College, youth, adults, and carpentry. Now being involved in the academy he’s been able to pass on his experience and skills to help carry on a building legacy within the community and help students to join a exciting new career in construction.
Eric White

Eric White, Instructor

Eric began his career as a commercial flooring installer before becoming a carpenter for 12 years in residential new construction/additions and commercial renovations. He has also run his own handyman company for 7 years, rehabilitated historic structures and led construction projects in remote locations. His particular interests are in green building/sustainability, hiking and making crafts.

Mark Babcock, Instructor

Mark has been involved in construction on and off since 1985, starting as a framer’s helper and progressing to project manager for high-end home renovations. After taking a year off to become a dive instructor in Roatan, Honduras (where he met his wife), he moved from Canada to Denver to be with his wife Lori. He enjoys traveling, diving, and working on cars in his spare time. Mark is very excited about being a part of the Colorado Homebuilding Academy and teaching the next generation of construction experts.

Robert McElreavey, Instructor

Robert is a Master Plumber with over 30 years of experience. He has been teaching the construction trades for 14 years, including apprenticeship-level plumbing. Robert has also taught carpentry skills to adults at Salvation Army centers and to court-involved young men at Ridge View Youth Services Center. When he is not working, Robert enjoys skiing, biking and surfing and spending time with his wife and two children.

Bill Wood, Instructor

With over 30 years of experience in the homebuilding, Bill is skilled at mentoring and developing new talent for his industry. Bill began his career as an assistant construction superintendent and advanced into executive positions for both large national homebuilders and small start-ups. Bill’s passion for service leads him to serve on the board for industry nonprofits, including Colorado Construction Institute and the Home Builders Foundation.

PART TIME INSTRUCTORS

Ross Campbell

David Baxter

Jon Williams

Winston

Winston Nurse

Advisory Team

Craig Campbell

President
West Region | Starwood Land Ventures, LLC
Past President of Home Builders Association of Metro Denver

Renee Zentz

Chief Executive Officer
Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs

Jay Small

President
Precision Building Systems

Amy Schwartz

Executive Director
BuildStrong Education

Pat Hamill

Chairman & Chief Executive Officer
Oakwood Homes

Eric Holt

Assistant Professor
University of Denver
Franklin L. Burns School of Real Estate & Construction Management

Scott Thorson

Chief Operating Officer
Oakwood Homes

Cheryl Schuette

Principal
Cheryl Schuette and Associates