Building for a Cause: Walthall County CTE Constructs House for Community Member

Peek into any CTE construction classroom in Mississippi, and through the flying sawdust and knocking hammers you will see the students building something like a birdhouse or a picnic table. Imagine looking into one of those classrooms and through the haze and noise seeing an entire house taking shape. At Walthall County Career and Technology Center, that is exactly the case, as students take the idea of service learning to the next level by building a house piece by piece.

The program partnered with Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization, to build a home for someone in their community. This is the first time Walthall CTC is completing a project of this scale and the second time their instructor, Bill Goldman, is leading such a project. He previously taught at McComb Career and Technical Center and worked with the same nonprofit to build a home there. During this project, students are charged with framing sections of the home, and county businesses aided in the project by donating materials like 2x4 boards and other lumber. 

“We’ve had very minimal costs, thanks to the donations,” said Goldman. “One trucking company even offered to transport the sections to the building site.”

The project in Walthall County began in the fall when Goldman worked out the plan with local Habitat for Humanity officials, and students have worked on it throughout the school year. Students are framing the home in eight-, 12-, or 16-foot sections, labeling where the sections will need to be connected. To complete the sections, students work with predrawn plans from Habitat for Humanity. They are responsible for cutting and measuring boards and then nailing or screwing them together. They then combine the walls in their CTE center to ensure everything connects properly. Additionally, students are responsible for cutting and combining the trusses for the roof of the home.

“Many times, Habitat for Humanity has to pay a company from Memphis to provide the frame of the house and have it shipped to the site before volunteers can begin work, so we are able to save money and give the students hands-on experience,” Goldman said.

Once Habitat for Humanity officials select and purchase the home site, the foundation is poured, and groups of students set up and secure the walls at the site by bolting the sections into the cement foundation and nailing them together. After the frame is in place, volunteers will wire, plumb, and paint the house, and add the finishing touches. Students will have the opportunity to continue working on the house by volunteering with Habitat for Humanity on the weekends or during their summer break. 

“Since Habitat for Humanity is still looking for the right home site, we were able to spread the project over several months. This not only gave our students more time to learn, but also allowed us to have community members tour our center and see the students at work,” explained Goldman. “We even used two of the sides as part of a Christmas parade float and won first prize in the parade.”

Theresa Anderson, the immediate past president of Pike County’s Habitat for Humanity chapter said the partnership with the CTE center has been mutually beneficial.

“I am delighted that we could help students gain experience and thankful to have them aiding in building this home,” said Anderson.

Although this is the largest project the class has taken on, it is not the only way they give back to their community. Goldman’s class also works with a local hospice center to build wheelchair ramps for patients who are in need of a more accessible way into their home.  They build the ramps in specialized measurements at their CTE center and then install them at the recipient’s home. 

“When we helped build the home in McComb, that was the first time a CTE center had worked with Habitat for Humanity in Mississippi,” explained Goldman. “I’m glad we are able to complete the project here [in Walthall County], and I hope this is something that can spread to other schools.” 

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Connections is the magazine for K-12 career and technical education (CTE) in Mississippi. The biannual publication features students, educators, schools, and organizations from approximately 50 career pathways across 16 career clusters. This Mississippi Department of Education publication is produced by the Research and Curriculum Unit at Mississippi State University. Issues are disseminated in print and electronic forms in May and December each year.

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