Significant progress is being made on this year's 'High School House,' thanks to the dedication put in by students from Great Falls Public Schools.
Each year, Great Falls Public Schools and NeighborWorks Great Falls collaborate in building a house. The 'High School House' is one of NeighborWorks Great Falls' most well-known projects.
NWGF supplies the lot, arranges subcontractors and finances the construction, while working with potential homebuyers to get them ready for homeownership. 'High School House' buyers must be first-time homeowners, which can result in first-generation homeownership.
The program has been around since 1998.
This year's 'High School House' is at 512 Sixth Avenue South. The students started building in September 2022. After checking in with those involved in the construction, they said they are pleased with the work that has been done thus far.
Great Falls High School senior AJ Mese said, "We got a late start, but we're just catching up. We just started siding. It's going really smooth as of now, and we should be inside the house soon. Working outside in the cold was really awful and painful, but now that we got this nice 30-degree weather, and it's going amazing.
Mese has been doing construction since his sophomore year. He aims for a program like the 'High School House' to help him on his path towards his career.
"The thing I like most about this class is that it's all hands on," he explained. "There's no time where you're really ever in the classroom doing bookwork. I get to be outside, and I can get good experience in construction."
Alex Clark is a senior at CMR High School. He is also no stranger to a project such as this. This is his second year being a part of the 'High School House' program. He said it's provided all sorts of unique opportunities as he also has aspirations to go into construction.
Clark stated, "After high school, I would like to go into the field of construction because there’s not very many jobs right now, or a lot of people working in this business.”
He also noted how this year's 'High School House' compares to last. "It might be a little more challenging this year," he said. "We're a touch behind due to the winter, and the foundation was a little slow this year. Relatively, this house is the exact same as last year."
Despite CMR and Great Falls High being rivals, all of that is left behind. Instead, a project like the 'High School House' is a bond that brings the schools together.
Mese said, "We have a great friendship with them (CMR). There's no rivalry. We come together to work on the house, and we're friends afterwards"
Clark said working with Great Falls students is one of the aspects of the project he enjoys the most. "I enjoy working with all of the guys from Great Falls High and CMR," he said. "We make a pretty good team, and it's pretty fun."
NeighborWorks Great Falls director Sherrie Arey noted the benefits that this serves, not only for the Great Falls community, but also the students themselves.
"For over twenty years, we've had this wonderful collaboration with GFPS," she said. "We've brought 45 homes to our community based on that collaboration. These young builders are learning a life-long trade, and lifelong skills on how to work with one another, communicate, as well as to build.”
GFPS 'High School House' instructor Pete Pace has been leading the project for over ten years. He attributes the program's success to the partnership with NeighborWorks Great Falls.
Pace said, "The partnership we have between GFPS and NWGF is second to none. This is the type of community partnership you dream of as a teacher. This is a strong partnership, we work well together, and our number one focus is the city, the students, the neighborhoods, and making Great Falls an overall better place to live and thrive."
The 'High School House' is expected to be completed in May 2023.
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