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Real World Learning

By: Dr. Denita Dowell-Reavis

Communications Director

A one-of-a-kind project is underway in Taylorsville thanks to help from some of the area’s local high school students. It’s a Habitat for Humanity home that could be finished in months. The North Carolina Realtors Housing Foundation out of Greensboro is paying $125,000 dollars for what’s called a full-house build. Students from Alexander Central skills classes will do the blockwork, some carpentry, and landscaping. Other students, including those from the Early College, volunteer by painting the home for the new family.

“It does feel good helping people out. I like coming out here and doing it. This is actually my first time coming out here to Habitat and I’ve enjoyed it,” says sophomore Will Bumgarner.

Alexander Central High School masonry teacher Nathan Robinson says the project is a win-win for the students.

“They work on a lot of volunteer basis and that’s really what we’re doing. We’re coming here and volunteering but at the same time, these guys are learning so much,” he says.

Robinson and his students have worked with Habitat for Humanity in Alexander in the past. In fact, the Career and Technical Education classes have helped build nearly 30 Habitat homes through the years. However, this is the first time with a statewide organization as the sponsor. Robinson adds the project is something the students can remember for life.

“This is the one place they can come and really get a life experience, what it looks like to build a home. You know inside the shop there, it’s hard. Everything we do, we’ve got to build and tear down, build and tear down. Here, they actually get to see it go up, see it happen. And you know what, they can come here in 25-30 years later and say ‘Hey, I did that.’ That sense of pride in construction is really what it kind of boils down to and what it’s all about,” says Robinson.

The students make the connection to their academic courses like math but appreciate the hands-on work.

“I love it. Making sure somebody has a roof over their head. It ain’t the first time I’ve come over here. Habitat is my favorite place to be. And just drilling screws, you know the simple stuff, you know we’re not doing anything too crazy, but being out here in the sun and not sitting at a desk is so much better,” says sophomore Rondell Blount.

Alexander County Habitat for Humanity Director Matt Cooksey says the organization got a head start on the latest project.

“We’re kind of blessed here that we’re still small and rural,” says Cooksey.

He adds that the student help on the nearly 1,200 square foot home is important.

“So they are a huge part of what we do and we’re excited that they’re partnering with us on this journey,” he relays.

No one is more excited than the 27-year-old mom who will be the new homeowner.  She wants to remain unnamed, but says she learned about Habitat on her job when the group presented information to other families.

“It is amazing. It’s a great opportunity, especially for me. I have a daughter and I’m a single parent. This is something that I would never have dreamed of. Becoming a homeowner is something that I never even thought about. So it’s a great opportunity and I’m really excited,” she says.

The homeowner must do 50 hours of volunteer work elsewhere; then, she must put in 250 hours of work on her own place. She’s worked on weekends at other sites with some Alexander County students.

“It’s a blessing to have the school kids come out and learn and be part of our journey. I know it’s a lot to ask for them to come on Saturday mornings, especially being teenagers, but it’s a great opportunity for them to learn,” she says.

The students learn practical skills and the benefits of service, but the soon-to-be owner says the dwelling is a message for her daughter.

“Even though you do have a dream, work for that dream and yes, it is a struggle and it’s a lot of sacrifice because it’s every Saturday that I go, but at the end of the day, it’s something that we’re both going to have that we can call ours,” she says.

The NCRealtors Housing Foundation is a non-profit trade group who is committed to affordable homes. This is the first full house build for the organization. The American Dream Sponsor program hopes to build 100 homes in all 100 North Carolina counties. They are also contributing to home upgrades in Clay, Cherokee, and Rutherford counties for veterans and the disabled.


Students pouring mud to use to mortar block

Students pouring mud into tray