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EXCHANGE: Illinois students build houses from the ground up

Posted April 13

— It's a young house — brand new in fact — and its builders were youthful, too.

The students of the Area Career Center at United Township High School built the blue, two-story building during a period of several years, Larry Shimmin, director of the center, said. They had help from electricians, plumbers and other builders when they needed specific expertise or equipment the program does not possess, but otherwise, did much of the work.

"We're less concerned about the project," Shimmin said. "It's more about teaching these students some skills."

There are reports of skills gaps in the construction world, he said. Contractors need the expertise the program teaches, but are finding it challenging to hire people with those skills.

The center is trying to meet that need and get students jobs, he said.

The career center does not just focus on the building trades. Its website lists more than a dozen other programs. They include barbering, welding and graphic arts.

The center draws its students from a number of Quad-Cities area school districts, and most of its funding comes from their tuition, Shimmin said. When a house is sold, the center recoups expenses for the build.

The blue house is the 25th that students from the center's building trades program have completed. And the school district recently approved its sale for $210,000.

UT owns the property on which the home is built, Shimmin said. There are already two student-built houses on the site, and there is room for seven more — enough to keep the program in projects for years to come.

During a recent visit to the house, it was apparent some finishing touches were needed. There were tools and ladders inside where students still were working, and Shimmin pointed out more: the sidewalk was incomplete, for instance.

The potential of the house, however, was also apparent.

The new owners will have a long porch to the north and a deck to the south. The ceiling is high in the living space, making the already big house seem even bigger. Afternoon sunlight streams in the sliding glass door that leads to the deck, filling that space with light. It is made all the brighter by white interior walls.

There are several bedrooms, and a whole room upstairs that could be used for whatever will suit them.

It will not take long for all that empty space to be filled with someone's life.

___

Source: The (Moline) Dispatch, http://bit.ly/2neyTUF

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