Building more than a house

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(From left, back): Beloit Memorial High School students Brandon Sachs, Dominic Johnson, Blake Davis, Nick Sly and instructor Lyman Elliott and (from left, front) James Wallace and Cory Davie gather in front of the house they are building as part of their construction program. Students work on it every morning. They say they've gained valuable work skills from the experience.

BELOIT — Beloit Memorial High School (BMHS) teens working on the student house build start their day with the Pledge of Allegiance, before diving into work until 12:50 p.m. Despite their hours of wrestling with all facets of construction five days a week, they say it’s a labor of love in more ways than one.

“Out here, I am motivated,” said student Cory Davie.

“It's more of a family here,” student Brandon Sachs said. “This program really brought a lot of us together.”

The team has only four weeks to finish the student house build at 2169 Staborn Drive, the second home built by students in the construction program.

Ray and Lynne Brown donated the property after the home burned down two years ago. The existing foundation from the former house is being used, although students are building the rest of the home from scratch. The team started in September and worked on every aspect of this house, with the exception of plumbing and HVAC which was done by professionals. The electric work is being done shoulder-to-shoulder with electricians, said Lyman Elliott, former social studies teacher turned Construction 4 instructor.

Elliott, who started teaching construction in January, had worked in trades and industry to pay his way through college and decided to take a different career turn by leading up the house build.

“This is good work. At the end of the day, we can say it's attainable and achievable,” he said.

Elliott, however, never turns away a teachable moment on the site. He leads the Pledge of Allegiance with his grandma’s flag, has the students listen to world news on the radio until 9 a.m. and has them chat with tradespeople and real estate agents.

Elliott said the students have had at least a semester or two in beginning construction courses.

“My colleague, Mike Wagner, does an outstanding job of preparing these guys for this program. By the time they come here, we are not talking about how to use a tape measure, we are putting these guys into real situations,” Elliott said. “There’s lot of independent thinking, problem solving and working through problems here.”

The house build had a number of challenging facets, but it became the most difficult around spring break when the drywall and plastering was applied.

“From the moment the drywall goes on, and forward, absolutely everything we do is visible to the end user,” Elliott said.

Students say the trim has actually been the most challenging. They’ve had to recut many pieces. They've also wrestled with getting the cabinets just right.

“We took a lot of time to make sure it's done right,” Elliott said.

The three-bedroom house is listed for $135,000. Elliott said there have already been some interested potential buyers.

Last year’s student house build sold for $100,000. Any profits from the sale of the house are reinvested into next year's student house build.

Career and Technical Education Director Ryan Rewey said many industry partners helped make the first student house build possible, with $50,000 donated from Corporate Contractors, Inc. in addition to time donated.

The following other companies also have assisted on student house builds: Quigley Smart, ABC Supply, Schuh Plumbing, BJ Electric, Amp Electric, JP Cullen and Guenther Electric.

Rewey also said school officials are working with the city and at Blackhawk Bank on the next student house build. A one-acre parcel has been donated which will be split up into four .25 acre lots.

The school board approved the donation of the lots, although nothing has been finalized yet. Rewey said the plan is to put four 1,400-1,500-square-foot homes with three bedrooms and two bathrooms on the site. The students would work on one house per year.

“As soon as we officially own the lots, I can begin getting the process started of acquiring building permits,” Rewey said.

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