Students learning from foundation up Vocational team builds a house WEST COUNTY--Crofton * Odenton * Fort Meade * Gambrills

June 08, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

Working only one hour a day in Odenton, a group of high school students has built its version of the American Dream.

Between 80 and 100 teens built a one-story home on Monterey Avenue as part of a vocational education project. Students not only designed the home, but put in the garden and did the landscaping.

"Some of it was hard," said Jason Gardner, 16, who attends Old Mill High School. "The trim was kind of difficult. You had to get the angles exact."

A family should move in this summer; school officials are having an open house Thursday so that the public can see examples of the students' craftsmanship.

For students interested in carpentry or other related fields, the experience teaches valuable skills and important lessons.

"I think they learn that it's not all fun and games," said Tinker Trow, director of special projects for the Center for Applied Technology North. "They have to come in everyday. They are not getting any money for this. And it's not even their house. That's life. Most things that you do, if you do them for a living, are not for you -- they are for someone else. That's a hard pill to swallow."

The brick and vinyl-sided modular home is in a small community. A Masonic Temple owned the land until two years ago, when the vocational school bought it for $75,000 through a private foundation set up to handle land transfers.

Last year, students in Mr. Trow's class built one home on the land and sold it for $126,000. The one just completed is next door, and sold for about $127,000.

To buy the land, Mr. Trow and two other teachers had to set up a private, nonprofit corporation six years ago called the Anne Arundel County Student Construction Trades Foundation.

All materials bought by the school are reimbursed through the sale of the home. Last year, after selling the student-built home, the foundation was $500 in debt. The difference was made up through money left in the foundation's treasury from previous years.

But the end justifies the means, Mr. Trow said, because it is much better to have the students learn while building something real then by having them put up a wall in a classroom only to tear it down at the end of the year.

"Hopefully, 20 years from now, these kids will be able to drive by here and this house will still be standing," he said.

"I like to work with my hands and build things," said Dave Suhrie, 17, a junior at Glen Burnie High School who helped build the frame and the roof. "It was pretty easy. I always help my dad around the house doing little things. It wasn't hard. You just had to pay attention and listen."

The framework for the home was built in the classroom and trucked to the Odenton site. Students then assembled the 28-by-44-foot, three-bedroom house and installed the plumbing. Some work, such as pouring the concrete basement and putting up the drywall, had to be contracted out.

Some students said they wished they were getting paid for the work, but 17-year-old Nick Jones, who attends Chesapeake High School, summed up the experience this way: "We're getting graded."

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