The 50th welcome project marks a milestone for Indiana's school


Bob Hawley, who is 84 years old, was part of a group that helped launch a program half a century ago that allowed students at Penn High School to build a house a year.

Hawley was a recent visitor to the construction site of the program's 50th residence.

A group of 10 students from Penn's Construction and Trades course has been working since August on the site – 2.5 hours a day, Monday through Friday.

The construction of the five-bedroom house in the Newbury Pointe d'Osceola subdivision is expected to be completed by June, and a buyer has already been lined up.

The 50th house marks a milestone for Penn High Building Trades Corp., which is separated from high school.

Hawley sits on the board of directors of the 12-member nonprofit corporation, which plans end-to-end projects. The company provides money to design and build houses. Penn's students provide the bulk of the workforce and are assisted by entrepreneurs.

By providing hands-on experience, Hawley said, the program has led many students to pursue careers in the construction trades. Many lives have changed since the St. Joseph Valley Home Builders' Association helped launch the program half a century ago.

"Not all students go to college … it's a way for them to look for a job," Hawley said.

The Crooks, instructor of Penn's Building and Trades for 20 years, said that building a house allowed students to identify the occupations that interested them. He often helps students organize job interviews.

"I say to the kids:" If you want a job, I can find you some, "said Crooks, who estimated that about half of his students found a job in the building after high school. about a quarter of them go to university and the other quarter find a job outside the construction sector.

Andrew Porter, a Penn junior, said that he had learned a lot by working at Osceola's home. After graduating from Penn, he plans to study architecture at Ball State University.

"Since I want to become an architect, I also wanted to know that aspect," he said. As an architect, "I would design a house like this".

The product of the houses sold by Building Trades Corp. is used for future projects and to give back to the community. The non-profit organization makes donations to the Mishawaka Rescue and Food Assistance Mission in South Bend, which each year awards a handful of university scholarships.

Four Crooks alumni recently visited the Osceola construction site. All received scholarships valued at $ 1,000 per year of college studies.

Chase Fenner is studying construction technology in first year at Southwestern Michigan College. He said that he was taking a reading lesson plans this semester, and that his experience with Penn's program was helpful to him.

"The people who did not go there consider (the plans) like a strip of scratches," he said.

As for Osceola's house, it will be bought by Chris Dujardin and his life partner, Corey Vermillion.

Dujardin graduated from Mishawaka High School in 2004, where he completed a construction and trades course. He is now the owner of a painting company.

Buying a student-built home is a way to give back to the community, Dujardin said.

"I thought it was better for kids to do it, rather than just a builder," he said. "I did it once, so they can do it – it's good for them and for us."


Source: South Bend Tribune


Information from: South Bend Tribune,

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