Community Partnerships Build Students' Futures
Habitat for Humanity is known for building houses, and clients turn them into homes that nurture the futures of its residents. In Rockford, Habitat for Humanity is building not just its clients’ futures.
In partnership with Rockford Public Schools, Production Academy students from Guilford and East High Schools take their education off campus to a Habitat build site. Once on site, these high school students start with a cement slab and begin building the groundwork for their future careers.
Students frame, drywall, install electrical and flooring until the house is finished. “The best part of the experience is getting to see the house we built become a home for a family we worked side by side with,” said Angela Diep, Guilford alumna. Just like a house must start with a foundation, Angela’s construction education began at Guilford in the foundation class, Introduction to Production. As a freshman, Angela discovered her love for woodworking and was excited to know that someday she could build a house. “I thought that it was a great opportunity for me and would be cool to interact with teachers and students in a different way than we normally would in regular classes, and I was right!”
Angela is now enrolled at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign pursuing a degree in architecture. While at Guilford, Angela participated in the Habitat for Humanity build project her junior and senior years. “Building houses in high school allowed me to have a different perspective than other architecture students. I’ve been able to see how things work in the construction process and understand things that may seem complicated from a construction point of view, such as wrong measurements, odd wall placements or no structural support. I’ve also seen how to utilize all areas in the house for maximum space usage. Bringing up the fact that I’ve been able to build these houses has helped me build connections with my architecture professor and woodshop adviser, which could possibly open up more opportunities for me in the future.”
Beyond specific building skills, this experience has allowed Angela to grow as a leader. “During my time building the Habitat houses, Mr. Anderson (Guilford’s construction teacher) allowed me to be in charge of the other students and trusted me to get work done. I know I can always ask for help and feedback from Mr. Anderson and the Habitat volunteers.” Most importantly, having this experience has solidified Angela’s passion for giving back. “Volunteering has also become important to me, so I try to help the community whenever possible. This year I’m a part of a volunteer organization that builds furniture for places that really need it. Our project right now is for a space that students go to when they need a safe place to do homework or stay after school.”
Angela is just one of many Guilford students who have built their future career paths around the experiences they have gained on the Habitat for Humanity build site.
Christina Magee is a veteran Rockford Public Schools teacher and is currently serving as the College & Career Academy Coach at Guilford High School.
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