By Curt Yeomans
Sixteen construction students from four Clayton County schools will leave their classrooms behind this week, so they can spend their school days swinging hammers, installing a roof, and painting walls at one soon-to-be Habitat For Humanity home in Jonesboro.
The students, who hail from Forest Park, Jonesboro, Lovejoy and Morrow high schools, will be building the 16th home in Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity's Avery subdivision, located on Dunivin Drive in Jonesboro. They will spend their days this coming week building a home, and then return to their classes on Oct. 21.
The four schools have been providing students to help build Habitat for Humanity houses, twice a year, since 2004, Forest Park High School Construction Teacher Gerald Wread said. He said the students do a fall build, and a spring build. One student from each participating school was on the building site on Friday to help volunteers put up the walls for the home-to-be.
"This gives our students an opportunity to apply what they learn in the classroom, in the real world," Wread said. "And it helps a family get a home."
In a press release, Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity Spokesperson Cara Welch said the home the students are building will go to Zoraida Chevere, who is a lunch-room attendant at Suder Elementary School in Jonesboro, and a widowed mother of five children, and grandmother of nine. Chevere has been working for the Clayton School System since 1996, Welch said.
"It is an amazing test of their skills, and a wonderful way to contribute their talents to SCHFH and the program's future homeowners," Welch said in the written statement. "The build is made more special by the fact that this particular homeowner is a 13-year veteran employee of the Clayton County School System."
Welch also said Clayton County Juvenile Court Judge Steve Teske, who is the president of Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity's Board of Governors, Sheriff Kem Kimbrough (the board's first vice president), and Clayton County Public Schools Superintendent Edmond Heatley, are scheduled to address the students on Tuesday morning at the building site.
Lovejoy High School Construction Teacher Price Jacobs said he tried to start the partnership among the four schools and Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity in 2003, but Habitat for Humanity International did not allow anyone under the age of 18 to participate in builds, for insurance reasons. He said the age was lowered to 16 a year later.
"It developed from two-day builds back in 2004, to now we spend an entire week building homes," Jacobs said.
The construction teachers from the four schools said they spend the weeks leading up to each build talking to the students about what will be involved in the process. "You just have to get the kids ready for this," Jonesboro High School Construction Teacher George Cummings said. "Safety is one of the things I go over with my students, since many of them have done these builds before, and already know what they'll be asked to do."
Morrow High School Construction Teacher Nicole Taylor said she has spent the last few weeks going over all aspects of home construction, since all of the students she is bringing to the site are participating in their first Habitat for Humanity build.
"I've talked with them about everything from floor layout to pulling nails out of wood," Taylor said. "It's one thing for us to talk about in class, though, but for them to see it, and practice it, is another thing."
Eric Navar, 15, a sophomore at Morrow High School, said the students got to volunteer to participate in the home-building project, and he chose to volunteer "just to come and help out the community."
Demetrius Moody, 17, a senior at Lovejoy High School, added: "I think it's good to give back to the community."