CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Four families will get new homes this year, and students from three of Cheyenne’s high schools are helping grant that dream.

Cheyenne’s Central High began partnering with Habitat for Humanity of Laramie County nearly two decades ago. Every year, students in the school’s construction class help build a home for a family in need.

This year, Habitat for Humanity is building two twin homes for four families. To help them undertake such a large project, Habitat for Humanity enlisted construction students from all three of the city’s comprehensive high schools.

Students from Cheyenne’s South High and East High are joining Central students to build these townhouses over the course of the school year.

Travis Eldridge, the construction teacher at East High, said, “The great thing that I love about it is we’re applying skills that students are learning in the classrooms — science, math, reading — and we’re bringing it into the construction world and making it real life.”

Students from Central High are at the build site every day for an hour. The classes from East and South rotate days, so those students spend a little more than an hour at the site two or three days per week, depending on the rotation.

Jacob Fernandez, a junior at East High, said working with the other schools is helpful for connections and sportsmanship between the schools.

“You’d think there would be some butting heads, but we do a good job coming together and working together,” he said.

Josh Gross, a senior at East, said it was a little rough between the schools at first, but they now get along well.

Britt Heath, a senior at Central High, added that students in all grades are working on the houses together. “It’s people you’d never really hang out with. You kind of find new friends.”

Heath said he wanted to take the class to learn more about construction after his dad built their family home.

“I kind of wanted to take it to learn what he already knew,” he said.

Curtis Colbert, the construction teacher at Central High, said the students in the class are learning trade skills, which is important because of the nationwide shortage of skilled workers.

Fernandez added that even if a student doesn’t go into a construction field after high school, they learn skills that they can use as future homeowners to repair or remodel their own homes, rather than paying someone else.

The students now are building the framework.

The progress is slow with only Central students working on the homes daily, but the outlines of four townhomes are clear.

Kate Wright, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Laramie County, said the homes each will have three bedrooms, two full bathrooms and one half bathroom.

They’re also building basements for each house that could allow for a fourth bedroom and bathroom. The homeowners will be responsible for that work if they want the extra living space. Wright said those basements were not in the original blueprints for the homes.

Although students are receiving credit for the class, Colbert said the project still provides them with a sense of volunteerism because they’re helping families who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford a house.

Fernandez said, “I just feel like it’s a win-win for the community and the students because we’re learning how to build houses, and a lot of kids have passion for this kind of class. So, we’re having fun out here and also helping out people that are needing help.”

James Adams, one of the soon-to-be homeowners, said the mobile home he, his wife, Michelle, and their three teenage sons live in is so drafty that his winter energy bills are around $300 per month.

“We hear people in houses pay less than that. So this is a good opportunity to help us to save money,” he said.

Wright said the houses are awarded based on need, financial capability and willingness to partner.

She said that need can be a drafty house or it can be unsafe homes, insecure neighborhoods, etc.

She explained that the homeowners don’t receive the home for free, but they do receive a 25-year, interest-free loan. While the payments are lower than on another house, Habitat for Humanity will not select a family who won’t be able to make the payments, she said.

The homeowners partner with Habitat for Humanity by showing up to the build site every weekend and putting in “sweat equity,” which means 400 hours of volunteering on their own house.

“The community volunteers need to know who they’re building the house for,” Wright said.

Once the school year is over, community volunteers will finish the houses over the summer, Wright said.

Desiree Gregorio said she has put in two hours and still has 398 to go. She’s currently raising her three daughters in her grandparents’ home, so she is excited to have her own family home.

Julieann Roybal found out Tuesday night that one of the townhomes is hers. She said, “A lot was lifted off my shoulders. My kids have been asking for bigger places and their own bedrooms, so now they’ll have all of that and some.”

Roybal has three kids and one on the way.

Audrey Apodaca, another of the new homeowners, said she’s grateful to Habitat for Humanity. “It’s an opportunity I wouldn’t have had otherwise,” she said.

James Adams added his thanks to all the community volunteers who have donated time or materials to the construction.

Michelle Adams said she has a lot of new friends to meet this year through the building process.

She added, “I just try to tell everybody (to) apply for this program. We don’t have to be stuck in these mobile homes with our families. There really is a better way.”


Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, http://www.wyomingnews.com