High school students are helping build a home, no matter the weather, that will benefit a cause.

Habitat for Humanity of Douglas County and Alexandria Area High School partnered for the first time, calling their project the Cardinal Build.

Students in the Center for Advanced Professional Studies class are spending class time helping build a Habitat home at 1118 Irving St. in Alexandria.

AAHS seniors Preston Johnson, Ben Olson and Domanik Hines chose this project for their CAPS class, which is a part of the Engineering, Manufacturing Technologies and Natural Resources academy. The remaining students in the class chose to tackle other projects in the community, such as tool making at manufacturing companies.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, the three are out on the grounds on Irving Street, building for about three hours.

A blessing of the build was scheduled for the groundbreaking day on Oct. 21, but due to unfavorable weather conditions that day, it will now be held after the roof is put on. This blessing will celebrate construction and the partnership.

Even though the blessing didn’t happen, the first day of construction still commenced.

The students are getting involved in almost every aspect of the building process, including framing, flooring, sheeting, windows, doors, roofing and painting. Plumbing and electricity will be installed by outside contractors. The foundation and cement work was completed before the students started on the project.

Randy Hansen, construction manager for the local Habitat for Humanity office, has been on site supervising the building process and was proud of the work the students were doing so far. “These guys are awesome. They persevered through the rain and the cold.”

This is the fourth home that Habitat has constructed in Alexandria this year.

Sara Gronholz, community engagement coordinator for Habitat for Humanity, said the organization is always looking to build partnerships and collaboration with groups in the community.

Giving back

The students are getting only class credit for working in these industries. Because they’re not getting paid, it allows them to give back to their community. A project such as this allows students to become aware of current issues people face with finding affordable housing, and actively contribute to a local cause.

“This is a perfect opportunity to introduce students at the high school to some hands-on experiences right in the construction trades, perhaps igniting their passion for a future career,” Gronholz said.

Hines is planning on becoming a deep sea welder and Johnson is planning on pursuing construction. Olson is still exploring his options.

“With the academies of Alexandria, our biggest thing we do is to expose them to these real-world work experiences so that they can make a very informed decision where they’re going next,” said Tom Ellison, the students’ CAPS teacher.

He said in years past, the focus for high school educators was to get students ready for college. Now, it’s changed a bit.

“College isn’t for everybody,” Ellison said. “Why spend a semester or a whole year in college to find out that you should’ve went to a trade school or a technical school? Or should’ve probably just went right into the world of work?”

The benefits the students gain go far beyond what getting a paycheck would be like, Ellison said. Developing relationships, networking and gaining experience can all result.

Hansen said it was a good experience for everybody involved. “We want it to be a positive experience as well as educational,” he said.

The house is set to be completed near the time the students are finishing up their semester. The CAPS students will finish the class with a presentation of their work to district Superintendent Julie Critz, AAHS Principal Chad Duwenhoegger, academy coach Clarissa Anderson, assistant superintendent Rick Sansted and people who work in the industries the students are presenting about.

“We kind of want to raise the level of concern within the students and make sure that their presentation is something to be very proud of, because I think the work that they do is something to be proud of,” Ellison said.

In the past, companies have offered scholarships to some students who have been a part of the CAPS class. Some students go right into a summer internship after taking the CAPS class.

Working with the companies and making these connections can lead to students being recruited by these companies later in life and wanting to stay in the area, Ellison said. “It’s such a great place to be.”

And, just seeing the finished product can be beneficial for the students. “When they drive by they’ll be able to see … that they have a lasting opportunity to impact the community in a positive way,” Gronholz said.