Robinson High School students in the building trades class are putting the finishing touches on one Habitat for Humanity home and getting ready to break ground on another.
Crawford County Habitat for Humanity partnered with the building trades class in 2006, and students have built about one house each year since. Construction is about to begin on the 14th Habitat home since the group formed in 1996.
Students spend most class days working at the house; they do nearly all of the work themselves. Building trades is taught at Robinson High School by Steven Jenkins, but includes students from Hutsonville, Oblong and Palestine through a partnership with Twin Rivers. Habitat covers the entire county. Though most of the houses are in Robinson, they're built where a suitable lot can be found.
"Not only are they helping a family, but without Habitat, our program wouldn't be able to exist," Jenkins said.
Construction for one home costs about $60,000, which the family pays back, interest-free. Local Habitat president Ron Halter explained the home owners have to demonstrate an ability to pay back the material costs.
"We are providing homes for the kind of families who wouldn't qualify for a traditional bank loan," Halter said. "I'm always surprised people don't know that they pay us back. We get a fair amount of our budget from existing home owners."
About 30 percent of each home's cost is funded through existing home owners' mortgage payments, donations fund the rest. The building trades class relies heavily on donations for construction equipment as well. The school district provides basic classroom materials.
The hands-on geometry lessons involved in home construction and Jenkins' writing assignments are practical applications of skills learned in the classroom.
"You give them that piece of plywood and a tape measure, and they figure it out because it's a real-life application," Jenkins said. "It helps them not only understand how important math is, but it helps their test scores. Writing is the same way. All of the writing we do in class relates to the construction industry. Not a lot of programs get the chance to apply math and writing like that, and as a result, maybe some of the kids apply themselves a little more."
Students in the class cover a variety of career paths and interests. Many of them are looking into a construction career, some end up going to trade school and others have gotten engineering and construction management degrees.
"The way Steven (Jenkins) engages them in the project, like ordering concrete, and he gets them involved in figuring out what kind of materials they need, is great," Halter said.
The class does about 85 percent of the work on each home, but before the partnership, Habitat relied on a group of retired volunteers. They're always looking for anyone willing to lend a hand, particularly people with construction experience.