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Habitat High students delighted to build home for single mom, kids
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Nine Hall County high school students have taken matters into their own hands to help a single mom realize her dream of owning a home.

High school juniors and seniors from area schools held a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday for a Habitat for Humanity house that Loretta Baker and her four children may be able to call home by Christmas.

The house on Browns Bridge Road will be the third home Hall County high schoolers have built as part of the school system’s Habitat High program. In the program, construction students help build homes for members of the community who are struggling.

Habitat High started in the fall of 2007 as a collaboration between Habitat for Humanity of Hall County and the Hall County school system. Last school year, students completed two houses in the neighborhood around Black and Cooley drives.

The program takes Hall County construction students interested in building careers out of the classroom and puts them on the job site. Except for electrical wiring and plumbing, students will perform the majority of the construction on the home from water-proofing the foundation to roofing, said Habitat High teacher Rodney Presley.

Will Schofield, Hall County school superintendent, said success with Habitat High jump-started the school system’s Hospitality High program with Lake Lanier Islands Resort.

He said planning for Horticulture High, a hands-on landscaping and irrigation program, is now in the works.

Presley said Habitat High students must apply for the program by submitting a resume, and only a small group of students is selected to participate. He said students from Chestatee, North Hall, West Hall and Flowery Branch high schools were chosen to spend four hours a day, four days a week building the house. Each student earns two class credits in construction.

Guillermo Casas is a junior from Chestatee High School, and said other than working with his dad on projects around the house, the Habitat for Humanity home is his first real hands-on experience with construction. Casas said he was interested in the program because he hopes to become an architect, but is learning there’s more to building a home than the sweat it takes to put up four walls.

"It’s hard, but in the end, it’s all good," he said. "It feels good to know you did something for somebody ... It’ll be some great memories when I graduate."

Mike Hollimon, president of the Homebuilders Association of Gainesville-Hall County, said it has been exciting to watch the program he helped establish enter its third semester. Hollimon said he has watched students take pride in their craftsmanship and bring their parents to the house to show off their work.

"A lot of kids, this is their Friday night, this is their football," he said. "I think it gives them the opportunity for them to see if this is what they really want to do. We’re trying to generate leaders, not just nail-drivers."

Schofield attended the groundbreaking ceremony and told the nine students he has seen students make perfect scores on the SAT and athletic teams win state championships, but he’s most proud of the young builders and their contribution to the community.

"When you talk about a single mom moving her family into this home and you guys have built it, you’re learning one of the most important lessons in life, which is it’s not about you, and it’s not about me," Schofield said. "It’s about what we can do for others."