Carpenter. Mentor. Native. Mexican. Identical Twin. Volunteer. Gay Games Captain. Dyke on a Bike. Bowler. Softball Player.
D Rojas is a lot of things. But first and foremost, she’s a carpenter, and has been for the past 31 years.
Her decades-spanning commitment to the trades is pretty simple to understand, the way she tells it:
“I work outside. I wear t-shirts and jeans and boots. I work hard. I’m always tired when I get home. I know that I’ve earned my pay. And I’m lucky to get up and do it again tomorrow. I love what I do.”
Before her career in the trades, and the City of Minneapolis program that gave her and other women and people of color a trial at the craft, she ventured down a number of paths – college, counseling at summer camps, working as a janitor – but none demanded as much effort and provided the level of satisfaction that working in the trades has.
In addition to the hard work, the camaraderie is so unique in the trades. D, for example, spent 17 years on a crew of 12, traveling the state on highway construction projects. Since the workers were living away from home, they’d often eat dinner together to save money and enjoy the few moments of relaxation. They even devised a routine to their weekly menus – on-your-own Monday, cookout Tuesday, deep-fried turkey Wednesday, and pizza Thursday. That crew is still like family to her.
On the job site she’s also become a guide to young women workers. D, after all, blazed trails as the first woman on nearly every job site in her first few years. From the basics of the job to the basics of the shared bathrooms, she’s been a mentor to hundreds of women over the years.
Outside of work, she’s deeply engaged with the LGBTQ community, from the Gay Games (she’s medaled four times and serves as captain for Team Minnesota!) and the Northern Lights Women’s Softball League to the Minnesota Two Spirit Society and Dykes on Bikes (through which she’s the biker who drives Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges on her motorcycle during the Twin Cities Pride Parade!).
And she stays connected to her roots through her involvement with native youth programs and trying to encourage more native kids to explore the trades. Most recently, she orchestrated a Little Earth Youth Build in Minneapolis and helped build a platform for their teepees.
So next time you see D out on a highway project or construction an expansion of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, know that while she’s a carpenter first, she’s so much more!