Each school day, a group of Waupaca High School students heads outside to the student parking lot to work on a project.
They are building a house.
“I think it’s a great experience for the kids to work on this. They’ll probably remember this the rest of their days,” said Dave Larson, who is a technology instructor at the school.
Larson’s class is building the house, and Jim Richmond, the school’s career and technical education coordinator, is assisting.
“Five-year-old data shows 23 other schools in Wisconsin build houses. Many others build other structures, such as garages, sheds, etc.,” Richmond said.
Participating in the house building project this year at WHS are Zach Arthur, Brandon Bolen, Aaron Dobizl, Eric Harrington, Jackson Hazen, Jake Hobson, Josh Houtman, Jon Larsen, Mitch Molder, Courtney Mortenson, Zach Nelson, Brandon Nowak, Jake Plamann, Jake Reedy, Joe Trindal, Will Vogt and Taran Walkush.
The students – all juniors and seniors – were identified to be part of the project prior to the end of the 2011-12 school year.
They were selected based on their expressed interest in the building trades.
“Mr. Richmond said he had a big project,” Reedy said. “I was excited. At first, I didn’t know what it was.”
Initially, Richmond wanted the students to partner with Habitat for Humanity to build a house.
It takes from four to six months from the time a family applies to be a Habitat for Humanity homeowner until they learn if they have been approved.
Informational meetings were held, but they were unable to find a family to be part of the building of the house.
Richmond said a community member recently approached him to say he is interested in buying the house.
A local Realtor has offered to estimate the value of the home, once it is complete, he said.
The plan is to sell it and break even on the project, with the hope of being able to partner with Habitat for Humanity on future house building projects.
The 1,456-square-foot house the students are building will have three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a full basement.
The students typically work on the house two hours each day.
When the weather was not conducive for them to work outside, they worked inside, in the school’s work shop, building the interior and exterior walls.
Once spring arrived, some students spent entire school days working on the project, making up the work from their other classes.
Being involved in such a project has resulted in many lessons for the students.
“What I learned is everything from how to properly lay out wood to make correct cuts to how to build walls,” Reedy said. “I’ve learned how to work with other people, as a team to get the job done.”
Reedy is completing his senior year at WHS and took numerous metal and wood shop classes before being asked to be part of the project.
“I saw it as a good learning experience,” he said.
The students learned to stay focused on the job and to listen to their teachers and others with experience.
Last winter’s snow held them back, and plans call for the roof to be sheeted and shingled by the end of this school year.
The house will be finished next school year.
“I wish I could be here when they finish it,” Reedy said. “It’s nice to know you were a part of the beginning. It was the first year. I look forward to seeing houses built by high school students for families.”
For Nowak, who is also a senior at WHS, building the house has been a fun learning experience.
He signed up for every metals and welding class he could take at the school and will head to Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton after he graduates to become an industrial welding technician.
Reedy, too, is enrolling at the campus, planning to become an electro-mechanical technician.
“I encourage underclassmen to get involved in the project next year,” he said. “It’s a learning experience – an experience of a lifetime.”
The project is being supported by many.
Richmond said the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is donating materials and labor for all the electrical work in the house.
A plumber and heating specialist also planned to assist the students, and Paul’s Concrete donated the lifting of the walls and trusses.
“I suspect, with a little luck and sunny days, which we haven’t had a lot of, we may get some of the smaller windows in (before the end of the school year),” Richmond said. “I’m hoping next time, it is a Habitat house.”
While this year’s graduating seniors wish they could help complete the first house, some hope to be back to watch when the house is moved from the parking lot.
They will not forget being a part of the project.
“There’s not a lot of people who can say that they built a house,” Reedy said.