SOUTHERN INDIANA — Students at Prosser Career Education Center are gaining real-world experience and helping out the community by building houses for Habitat for Humanity.
Prosser began partnering with Habitat for Humanity Clark & Floyd Indiana last year, and, so far students have been involved with five different projects, including three this school year. The nonprofit brings in a network of volunteers to build houses for those in need and assists people to become homeowners.
Recently, students in Prosser’s construction program built panels for a 1,200-square-foot house. The panels were delivered to Habitat for Humanity last week for a future house in Charlestown.
Students have also been involved with on-site construction of two homes for Habitat for Humanity this school year, including one on Jackson Street in New Albany and one on Newman Avenue in Clarksville. Last year, students helped build two houses for the nonprofit.
Ron Zimmer, building trades instructor at Prosser, said the construction crews at Prosser are so large the school can split crews between the school’s subdivision of student-built homes and Habitat for Humanity construction sites. The school has a long history of teaching students the trade through on-site construction.
Constructing the Habitat homes allows the students to meet the families who will eventually live there, and students enjoy the community service component of the construction, Zimmer said.
“It’s a project that can actually help out,” he said.
Brad Spine, also a construction teacher at Prosser, enjoys seeing the energy on the construction sites for the Habitat for Humanity homes.
“It’s really cool to see the students who may not be interested in sitting in a classroom doing bookwork get excited about going to this job site, and when they start laying out walls and nailing boards, they really come alive, and that’s really cool to see,” he said.
Students get particularly excited about the Habitat for Humanity projects because they know “we’re doing this for an individual who’s going to benefit from this house,” Spine said.
In addition to the construction program, students in Prosser’s electrical program are also participating in Habitat for Humanity projects, including the wiring of two houses, according to teacher Mike Bauerta. The crews have completed wiring at the Newman Ave. house and are about halfway complete with the Jackson Street house.
“It’s giving us an opportunity for what we’re always going for, and that’s making it as real as possible,” he said. “They’re getting that opportunity to have the hands-on experience and build from the ground up someone’s home.”
Nico Hernandez, a senior at North Harrison High School, is one of the Prosser construction students involved in the various Habitat for Humanity projects, and he has completed work ranging from roofing to interior work.
“I really liked roofing,” he said. “It seemed like a simple job, but it was a little intimidating. But it was nice, it was good experience,” he said. “On the inside, I was always working on the rafters, I was always making sure all of the walls were intact, making sure the roof stayed down, and I think that was really fun too.”
Hernandez said he was allowed to take the lead on the New Albany project this year, and it was rewarding to interact with the future owner.
“Knowing that my hands helped create a house for someone else who’s going to be living in that house — it’s a very magical experience for sure,” he said.
Austin Ayers, a junior at New Albany High School, said he did “a little bit of everything” with the Habitat for Humanity projects as a student in a construction class. He recalled seeing the smile on a future homeowner’s face as they worked to construct her future home in New Albany.
“She would come over a couple times a week and just check on us, and she was always chatting with us and letting us know how good of a job we were doing,” he said.
Ben Cook, a junior at Jeffersonville High School, said he appreciated the opportunity to build experience by participating in the Habitat for Humanity projects through his construction class.
“It’s really hard to find job experience as a junior, as a 16- or 17-year-old kid in high school,” he said. “There’s not a whole lot of places that will let you go out and build these houses and experience what we get to experience. It allows us to build teamwork and leadership skills.”
Spine said the Habitat for Humanity work helps students learn the construction trade in a practical way that isn’t limited to a workshop or classroom.
“They’re not just in a lab,” he said. “We can go out there and build a birdhouse or a doghouse on a flat concrete floor in a nice warm environment with no mud, or we can give them some real-life experience by going out to a job site, and now we’re on uneven ground, now we’re traipsing through mud, now we’re dealing with cold weather. That’s what prepares them to go right out of high school and get these jobs, because they have the real-world experience, which is nothing like the lab.”
Jerry Leonard, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Clark & Floyd, said it has been a “blessing” to partner with Prosser.
“The students are fun to watch — they get so excited, and they’ll take their parents and say, I did that wall, I did that roof,” he said. “It’s neat to see how much they take pride in that. They’re learning how to build houses while also learning how to give back to the community.”
Zimmer said Habitat for Humanity has a great volunteer base, but Prosser is able to get crews out there more often to help expedite the construction process.
“When we can take five hours a day on a job site, it moves them right on along and helps them with their schedule,” he said.
Without the crews at Prosser, Habitat for Humanity “would have fallen far behind,” Leonard said.
“We have been able to stay on track and impact more families and more communities,” he said. “It’s a fantastic partnership, and it’s a win-win for everybody.”
Kyle Lanoue, career and technical education program director at Prosser, said he loves that the school’s partnership with Habitat for Humanity is “community-minded.”
“I love the emphasis on our school system, our schools — Prosser Career Center is doing the good work for the community and helping families in need,” he said. “On top of all of that, they’re picking up good skills.”
Lanoue said the students are bringing a high quality of work.
“Habitat has a long history of really good volunteers and enthusiastic people who serve, but you also have to remember, that these are aspiring construction students — they want to work in the industry, and so I think the quality is there, I think the intentional purpose of building homes that will serve underprivileged individuals but also a really high quality and caliber — that’s what I really appreciate about it.”