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 as well as the Precision Building Systems team, who provide physical space for our training and administration. Additionally, the Academy has partnered with QLTY Objective to provide high quality boots to graduates who receive industry jobs. QLTY Objective is working to support the construction industry through easy access to affordable and high quality work boots.

Oakwood_Stacked_200x150
BuildStrong_NoTag_RGB copy
PBS logo
UniversityOfDenver-Signature-01
TSM-updated
QLTY logo

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

Andy Coy, Recruiter

Andy’s mission in life is to create meaningful, authentic connections with everyone he meets, which manifests in his work as a recruiter. He’s spent most of his career recruiting for research studies, first at the Veterans Health Administration, and most recently for user research studies in the tech industry. He’s also owned a photography business for the past 5 years, which has allowed him to document weddings all across the country. In his free time, Andy can usually be found in the great outdoors rock climbing, trail running, or hiking with his wife.

Contact Andy

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

Irazú Hernández

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.

Michael Notartomaso, Lead High School & Pop-up Instructor

 Mike has been a construction professional since 2008. He has a range of experience that has taken him through hundreds of projects including commercial, residential, disaster restoration, exteriors, tenant improvement, and elective remodels. He has worked his way up the chain of command, starting as a laborer and advancing to General Manager and Small Business Owner. From 2016 to 2020 Mike focused on executing his own remodels where he self performed many of the items including rough and finish carpentry, paint, masonry, tile, light electrical and light plumbing. He is excited to be able to share his knowledge and experience with the CHA Community and help others find a path to success in the construction arts!”

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.

Daniel, Instructor

Daniel Silverman, Construction Instructor

Dan started his career in construction through flood and fire restoration work where he helped remediate the flood damaged homes from the flood that hit the Front Range in 2013. From there he began pursuing a career as an electrician while taking online courses in psychology with a focus on the importance of skill sharing through mentorship. He started his own custom lighting business and began coordinating medical imaging equipment installations in Colorado and Arizona. He has found a way to merge his two passions of construction and mentorship as an instructor at CHA. Dan feels honored to have the opportunity to support people in developing new skills to pursue a career in the construction industry. Outside of work, you’ll likely find Dan training kickboxing, playing sand volleyball, or practicing archery.

Jacob Erwin, Construction Instructor

Jacob started his career in the live entertainment industry in 2008. He spent several years as a scenic carpenter, properties, and arena rigger before eventually becoming a Production Stage Manager and Technical Director. When the pandemic struck and the live entertainment industry came to a grinding halt, he decided to take the skills he acquired and apply them to the construction industry. He spent a lot of his career teaching and grooming the next generation of entertainment technicians. Now he is excited to help people develop new skills and prepare them for a rewarding career in the construction industry.

PART TIME INSTRUCTORS

David Baxter

Jon Williams

Winston

Winston Nurse

Eric White

Eric White

Mark Babcock

Jeff Gross

Jeff Gross

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