Wyandanch resident Erica Prince, 43, joined the growing number of Long Islanders employed in the construction sector last month. A carpenter, she is helping to build Wyandanch Rising, an apartment and retail complex.

Getting a job changed her life. Prince was unemployed and living in a shelter with the youngest of her three children when she showed up at the Wyandanch Community Resource Center, a Babylon Town facility.

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The center was taking applications for a three-month construction course at the Electrical Training Center in Copiague. Prince signed up and did so well she was voted class valedictorian among the 16 students, who included just one other woman, said Kimberly Jean-Pierre, the center's director.

"It was just an honor to beat out the guys," Prince said.

The Suffolk County Department of Labor paid for the course, which Prince completed in May. Now a working member of Carpenters Local 290, which sends her out on jobs, Prince is able to rent a house and she installs insulation and wall board at the construction site.

"It's not just a job, but a career," she said. "It's made me feel like I am . . . an example for my children."