WEMOCO grad hits the ground running; partners with CWD to share her knowledge

By on February 17, 2013

(L-r) Gerry Wilcox, Heavy Equipment Operation and Maintenance instructor at the WEMOCO Career and Technical Education Center; Corey Minster, a senior at Spencerport; Adam Blaszyk, a senior at Wheatland-Chili; Jennyrae Brongo, owner of Brongo Contracting and Supply; and Jim Slocum, who teaches adults heavy equipment operation at the Center for Workforce Development.Jennyrae Brongo grew up in a big sandbox at the corner of Manitou Road and the 531 expressway. She is the third generation to work in construction and excavating – an unlikely profession for a 23-year old woman. Her grandfather, Charles Brongo, started Lyell Excavating in the 1950s and was known for the major site development of Spencerport schools, Kodak Park, the 531 expressway, and worked with the early Habitat for Humanity. His son, Jeff, learned the trade at a young age and followed in the footsteps of his father. The successful team operated a large fleet of earthmovers, developing many areas of the Rochester community.

After the death of his father, Jeff Brongo juggled the roles of business owner and father to a special needs son who required constant care. Meanwhile, Jenny already had a solid background in the business thanks to her father, and decided to further her education at WEMOCO Career and Technical School as a student in Gerry Wilcox’s Heavy Equipment Operation and Maintenance class. “I knew I’d be the only girl in that class, but I also knew that I’d be good at it,” she said.

After graduating high school, Jenny headed to Alfred State College where she pursued a bachelor’s degree in construction management engineering technology. She excelled in project planning, scheduling, safety, and estimating. “I wanted to learn the management skills behind the field work that I already knew,” she said.

Jenny graduated on May 15, 2011 and exactly two months later, her father died unexpectedly at the age of 52 leaving full responsibility for the family business to his daughter. “We had dreams of doing great things together and then I was left to figure it all out alone,” Jenny remembered.

Despite being left with the overwhelming responsibility of caring for her mom, autistic brother, the business and herself, Jenny rose to the occasion. With a new name, “Brongo Contracting and Supply,” and a new vision, specializing in construction and demolition recycling, the business has been reinvented.

“Construction and demolition materials make up approximately 40 percent of the waste in the U.S.,” Brongo explained. She recycles everything on the property, has no dumpsters, and doesn’t transport anything to a landfill. Among the materials recycled are dirt, concrete, asphalt, brick, wood, and green waste. These products are then reused in the construction process and sold to contractors and homeowners. “Everything is worth something in its cleanest form,” she said.

Also part of her father’s vision was the desire to give back to the community and create jobs. “My dad always wanted to have a land lab – a bigger, better experience for students with more hands-on learning,” said Brongo.

So Brongo Contracting and Supply now partners with the Center for Workforce Development (CWD) in creating “Project Sandbox,” where she gives adult students enrolled in the Heavy Equipment Operation I and II classes access to projects and land at her 16-acre gravel pit to better learn their trade. “To see the transformation of these students in just six weeks is like seeing someone walk for the first time,” she said. In addition to providing the opportunity for hands-on learning, Brongo allows students to use her as a reference, and helps them with their resumes and making job connections.

At WEMOCO, high school students learn how to maintain heavy equipment by working on Brongo’s vehicles. “I’m excited by her commitment to education and renewable resources,” said Wilcox. “She’s embracing both with her business and taking us with her.” Thanks to Brongo, WEMOCO students are able to gain experience working on larger vehicles than what they have available in class.

Brongo is hoping the future of her business includes training a workforce that will help create homes and environments for special needs individuals, another population served by BOCES 2.

As of this year, Brongo will be opening a not-for-profit to build a group home for adolescents with autism.

“I would not be where I am today if I didn’t have the WEMOCO option for hands-on learning,” said Brongo. “BOCES opened doors for me and now I want to open doors for others.”