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John Cooper School students, faculty and parents break ground on 20th Habitat for Humanity project

November 12, 2018

Students from The John Cooper School will have more on their minds than only hitting the books in the coming months: they’ll be breaking out the hammers and nails as they build their 20th consecutive house with Habitat for Humanity Montgomery County.

It’s tradition for John Cooper students in all grades, faculty sponsors and parents to build a house with the organization each school year.

This includes monthly construction days for students 16 years old and older, a paint day for middle school students and a plant, or landscaping day, for elementary school students once the house is completed.

In addition to students who apply to be on the project’s “steering committee,” two senior students are the lead co-chairs for the project: Christopher McDonald and Kate Burns. This is McDonald’s 11th house he’s helped with.

“It’s been cool to see all the houses. We’re not just building a house, we’re building a home where people can live and make memories,” McDonald said.

Burns said that her favorite part of being involved is knowing that the work they do will last a long time.

“I realized that I’m able to get involved in making a larger impact. We haven’t met the family (we’re building this year’s house for), but we’ll present the house during a special time on dedication day,” Burns said.

They’re building this house in the Cedar Creek neighborhood in Conroe near Runyan Elementary School. According to Habitat for Humanity Montgomery County’s website, the organization received a land donation to create a subdivision of Habitat houses and families there.

The neighborhood is expected to have more than 100 homes within four sections when it is complete.

Three faculty sponsors from John Cooper act as liaisons between Habitat for Humanity officials and the school, as well as help the student lead co-chairs organize the events and project volunteers.

One of those faculty sponsors is fifth-grade teacher Samir Muhith, who got involved when his son worked on the project as a student a few years ago.

“I love it, and a lot of high school students now are students of mine from fifth grade. It’s a great opportunity for me to see how they’ve grown,” Muhith said.

Muhith said the project helps students learn responsibility by not only giving them construction skills, but teaching them organizational skills also.

“They get to see what’s entailed in this kind of project. The idea of getting to that end goal when there’s many people depending on you, it’s a great program,” Mihith said.

In addition to the actual construction work, the students work throughout the year to raise half the cost of the house, $30,000, and partner with a corporate sponsor that donates the other half.

The combined contributions are what makes it a schoolwide project aside from the power tools and lumber — by having younger students participate in the fundraising efforts.

Kim Larance, the school’s math department chair, was a faculty sponsor from 2008 until just last year. Larance said that though the students are efficient at raising the necessary money, the project is about more than donated dollars.

“It’s the sweat equity, it’s getting to know the homeowner and getting to say that they’re making a difference in someone else’s life…getting an appreciation for others in need and how they can help,” Larance said.

jane.stueckemann@chron.com

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