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Habitat High program welcomes first girl
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Hall County School System Habitat High instructor Rodney Presley gives some pointers to Chestatee High School student Megan Davis earlier this month. - photo by Tom Reed

Habitat High is now officially coed.

The program, which gives Hall County students the chance to build homes for families in need, welcomed its first female worker to the job site this semester.

Megan Davis, 18, joined Chestatee High School’s construction class and learned about Habitat High on field trips to their work site, she said. A collaborative effort between Hall County and Habitat for Humanity, the program began in 2007 and participants have since built four new homes.

For Davis, power tools were not uncharted territory. She grew up the only girl in a family with three brothers and worked alongside her father as he helped a friend build a home.

“I have done stuff in the past with construction, but it’s challenging because there’s a lot of stuff that I don’t know,” she said. “The guys have to tell me how to do some things, but there is also a lot that I know that the guys don’t.”

Students involved in the project must go through an application process, and just 18 were accepted this semester, instructor Rodney Presley said.

Presley has been with Habitat High since the first nail was driven three years ago, working as the work site supervisor. Following the success of the project, Presley stepped in to teach a construction class at Johnson High School each day after leaving the Habitat site.

The team works 7:30-10:30 a.m. Monday through Thursdays each week, and Davis has been a welcome addition to the crew, he said.

“She’s been doing great,” he said. “When I take in a student, I have high expectations because they’re supposed to be the cream of the crop.

“(Girls) may think some things are too hard, but there is really nothing that they couldn’t do,” Presley said.

But construction is not for everyone regardless of gender, and Presley works with a handful of representatives from Habitat for Humanity and the Hall County Builder’s Association to make sure applicants understand the responsibility.

“(Students) contribute by learning how to build houses from the ground up,” he said. “The reason we have the construction program is to help students learn about the industry.”

Presley teaches them the building codes and complicated zoning laws that have to be understood before building. Prior to starting, the students are responsible for calculating figures on how much materials they will need, and he orders according to their estimates.

But apart from the physical labor, there is a deeper fulfillment that participants take away, he said.

“They’re helping people. They’ve helped build a house for someone less fortunate or who just needs help,” he said.

This semester, the students will complete the fifth Habitat High house. Due to heavy rains last semester, they were unable to reach their goal of two homes for the year.

“Knowing you’re helping out a family that really can’t afford a nice house, it’s just a good thing,” Davis said. “I love doing it.”

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