WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) — Some Palm Beach County high schoolers had a different kind of homework: completely building a house in West Palm Beach.
Students in the Weitz Construction Academy at Seminole Ridge High School saw their hard work on their annual home project come to fruition on Tuesday, when it finished this afternoon.
Habitat for Humanity gave the students the tools and the students built this house all on their own, helping to build their own futures in the process.
“We have contractors from Jacksonville to the Keys that know about the program," remarked David Porter, Project Manager and Co-Founder of the Weitz Construction Academy. "In March, they’re calling up to interview the students. There is a gigantic shortage in construction workers. These kids can name their price, and sometimes there’s bidding wars for their services.”
170 students from the Weitz Construction Academy at Seminole Ridge High School built an affordable home for a family, earning praise from Palm Beach County Superintendent Mike Burke.
“This is so great on many levels," Burke stated. "First, the students are learning valuable skills, they can get jobs right out of high school in the construction industry, that’s their choice, or they can go on to college but beyond that, they’re learning how important that is to give back to the community.”
Todd Williams will become the teacher of this program in three weeks and says he’s thrilled to have seen the work ethic of these students pay off.
“They want to learn, they want to either make this their career or some aspect of it," he told CBS12 News. "Maybe it’s just the architects or the engineers or whatever the case may be, but it is very satisfying to know that there are people out there that still want to learn.”
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To be eligible to live in one of these homes, a person has to invest $4,000, volunteer for 300 hours to build other homes and complete 75 hours of financial literacy courses.
If that's all completed, the homebuyer can qualify for a zero-interest mortgage based on 27.5 percent of their income - not the market - through Habitat for Humanity’s role in this project.
“It means a lot knowing that we’re able to give people opportunities, knowing that we’re doing it for a good purpose,” said Gavin Kolesar, a senior in the academy.
Jennifer Thomason, the CEO of Habitat’s Greater Palm Beach County Region, says this is the only program across the country where high schoolers complete a project like this annually. She says she wants to see the idea grow beyond South Florida.
“We want to share this actually with Habitat for Humanity International," she said. "We want other Habitat’s to know that there’s potential for partnerships in their areas and their school systems.”
Thomason says they have a family that is expected to move into this house later this year, around the holiday season.