Dec 13, 2010 12:48 PM by Matt Stafford

D2 students learning career skills through building academy

Rusty Higgins likes putting on his gloves everyday and going to work.

"Just getting stuff done," Higgins explains.

Only it's not quite the real world just yet, it's the 2nd half of Higgins' high school day. The Harrison High School junior is helping classmates build a home in the afternoons. It's for high school credit, but the feeling of a real job is what the organizers are going for.

The course is part of a new non-profit, the Career Building Academy. They partner with school districts, like Harrison D2 on this home, to find the kids who would benefit. Then they for partnerships with local contractors to provide help -- like the site the Harrison kids are working on that was donated by New Generation Homes.

After a start-up loan from the El Paso County Housing Authority, the students build the home and sell it. The home is used for collateral on the loan. The goal is to repay the County and hopefully put away money for future classes -- as well as get the kids skills they can use to get a job immediately after high school.

Many of the instructors have been working construction jobs all of their professional careers, but for many of the students it's their first time on a site. Every part is a learning experience for them. The work it takes to build a home can also be an eye-opener.

"Some of the things they didn't think they needed to know, all of the sudden they realize they do need to know," says Randy Reid, a course instructor.

For many of the kids, like Higgins, classroom work hasn't always come easy. For Higgins it was Math that gave him the most trouble, but on the job site it's making more sense.

"Math out here comes a lot easier because it's right in front of you," says Higgins.

That feeling of "getting it" only adds to his confidence level. Instructors say, for some of the students, their confidence has never been higher -- and the same goes for their work ethic.

"I've never missed a class unless I've been sick," Higgins explains. "I love this class."

"They want to learn, they want to learn how to build a house," says Reid.

"I know what I'm doing and I can see what's in front of me," says Higgins. What's in front of him is a project that gets a little closer to finished everyday. It's a lesson in setting goals and working hard to complete them.

"I'm hoping to own my own company one day, my own plumbing company," explains Higgins. "It takes time and you've got to work up to it," says Higgins.

So right now he's learning what it takes to get there.

This semester the course had about 25 Harrison students, but after the holiday break they're planning on doubling that number, with new programs in Manitou and D49.


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