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Clayton students helping build 'Habitat' home

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

Jonesboro High School junior, Nathan Hamblin, plans to work for a construction company as a home builder after he graduates from high school, and he is getting experience by participating in a Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity home-build in Jonesboro this week.

On Wednesday, the 16-year-old was helping put roof trusses in place, and nailing boards together at a home-building site in the Avery neighborhood that Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity has been slowly building out over the last year and a half.

By participating in the home-build, Hamblin is getting real-world experience for the career path he plans to pursue. And yet, Hamblin said community volunteerism, rather than gaining experience, was his motivation for participating in the project. He said this is the fourth time he has participated in a Habitat for Humanity event that involved Clayton County high school construction students.

"I'm really doing this to give back to the community for a change, rather than just receiving stuff all the time," he said.

Hamblin is one of 16 construction students, from Forest Park, Jonesboro and Lovejoy high schools, who are working on the home-building project this week. Several of the youths, including Hamblin, said they are gaining valuable experience by putting up wall frames, installing roof trusses, building a deck, and laying floor boards.

Alberta Grover, program manager for Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity, said the organization has been partnering with Clayton County Public Schools for the last six years. She said part of the reason for the partnership is to expose the youths to community service, and the other part is to make it an educational experience for them.

High school construction students do one-week building projects in the fall, and in the spring, she said. This spring, the students are building homes that have concrete crawl spaces underneath them, which is something new for Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity, she said. They are also working on a home that is between two other Habitat for Humanity homes that are in various stages of completion.

The youths got to watch contractors pour the concrete walls for the crawl space of a neighboring site on Monday, Grover said. She added that by week's end, students will get to observe brick masons putting up the brick exterior on a house on another neighboring site.

Lovejoy High School Construction Teacher Price Jacobs said he likes the idea of the students building a home alongside two other active construction sites. "It's been a better experience, because we can see more of what goes into building a home," he said. "The students are getting to see all aspects of construction."

Forest Park High School Construction Teacher Gerald Wread said some areas of home construction, like the pouring of a concrete foundation, are things construction teachers do not get to show their students in a classroom environment. "You can't get the experience these kids are getting here by building dog houses and sheds," Wread said.

Lovejoy senior, Jermyrius Hastings, 17, said this is his fourth Habitat for Humanity project, and he still uses it as an opportunity to learn more about the home-construction craft. Hastings said he will be studying construction management at Georgia Southern University in the fall.

He said this spring's building project has been a departure from previous builds, because of all the activity going on around the home the students are helping to build, and because the home they are building has a crawl space. "It is different [from previous builds] in a big way," he said. "Just from building up from a slab, to building up from a crawl space makes you change what you do, starting with having to build a floor over that crawl space."

Forest Park junior, Chris Bateman, 18, who is planning on being a brick mason, said participating in the build is giving him an idea of what to expect when he gets into the working world. He said this is his first time participating in a Habitat project.

"It's giving me an idea of all the work that goes into home construction," Bateman said. "A lot of care is put into building a home, because you want to get every thing right."

The high school students are not building the home by themselves, however. Each day they are at the construction site, volunteers from the Clayton County Sheriff's Office are working side by side with the youths to put up the walls, lift the roof trusses into place, and hammer nails into boards.

Clayton County Sheriff Kem Kimbrough is the vice president of the Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity's Board of Directors, and addressed the youths, along with Clayton County Juvenile Court Judge Steve Teske, on Monday morning.

"Being that Sheriff Kimbrough was asked to speak to the students, we decided to ask deputies if they would like to volunteer some time to help build the home, and several graciously said they would," said Sheriff's Office spokesperson, Sgt. Sonja Sanchez.