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50th home project marks milestone for Indiana school

January 2, 2019

OSCEOLA, Ind. (AP) — Bob Hawley, who is 84, was part of a group that helped launch a program a half century ago that has enabled Penn High School students to build one home per year.

Hawley was a recent visitor at the construction site of the program’s 50th home.

A group of 10 students from Penn’s Building and Trades course have worked since August at the site — 2.5 hours per day, Monday through Friday.

Construction of the five-bedroom home, in Osceola’s Newbury Pointe subdivision, is expected to be done by June, and a buyer already has been lined up.

The 50th home marks a big milestone for the Penn High Building Trades Corp., which is separate from the high school.

Hawley serves on the nonprofit corporation’s 12-member board, which plans projects from start to finish. The corporation provides money to design and build the homes. Penn students, meanwhile, provide most of the labor and are assisted by contractors.

By offering a hands-on experience, Hawley said, the program has led numerous students to pursue careers in the building trades. Lots of lives have been changed since the Home Builders Association of St. Joseph Valley helped launch the program a half century ago.

“Every student is not going to go on to college... This is an avenue for them to seek a profession,” Hawley said.

Les Crooks, who has been Penn’s Building and Trades instructor for 20 years, said building a home helps students narrow down professions they’re interested in. He often helps students line up job interviews.

“I tell the kids, ‘If you want a job, I can get you a job,’” said Crooks, who estimated about half of his students find building trade jobs after high school; about a quarter of them attend college, and the other quarter find jobs outside of the construction industry.

Andrew Porter, a junior at Penn, said he’s learned a lot while working on the Osceola home. After graduating from Penn, he plans to study architecture at Ball State University.

“Since I want to become an architect, I wanted to know this side of it, too,” he said. As an architect, “I would design a house like this.”

Proceeds from homes sold by the Building Trades Corp. are used for future projects and to give back to the community. The nonprofit makes donations to the Mishawaka Food Pantry and Hope Rescue Mission in South Bend, and it awards a handful of college scholarships each year.

Four of Crooks’ former students recently visited the construction site in Osceola. All of them were awarded scholarships that provide $1,000 for each year they’re in college.

Chase Fenner is studying construction technology as a freshman at Southwestern Michigan College. He said he is taking a blueprint reading class this semester, and his experience from Penn’s program has come in handy.

“People that haven’t been around it look at (blueprints) as a bunch of chicken scratch,” he said.

The Osceola home, meanwhile, will be bought by Chris Dujardin and his life partner, Corey Vermillion.

Dujardin is a 2004 graduate of Mishawaka High School, where he took a building and trades course. He is now the owner of a painting business.

Buying a home built by students is way to give back to the community, Dujardin said.

“I thought it was better for the kids to do it, rather than just a builder,” he said. “I did it once, so they can do it. It’s good for them, and it’s good for us.”


Source: South Bend Tribune


Information from: South Bend Tribune, http://www.southbendtribune.com

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