Giving back, gaining skills

Courtesy photo: BHS’s Building Trades instructor Kale Skogen (far right) offers guidance to students as they build a new home, located at 311 Eighth Ave., in partnership with Brookings Area Habitat for Humanity.

BHS students learn by building Habitat home

BROOKINGS – The Brookings High School Building Trades class has long taught students the skills it takes to construct a home. This year, however, the students are putting their skills to use as they give back to the community with a special Habitat for Humanity home build.

Under the direction of instructor Kale Skogen, the nearly 40 BHS students are constructing a home off-site from the school – an unusual event that is occurring due to COVID-19. Due to an uncertainty of school continuation and therefore the possibility of not completing a home build at the school, the group partnered with Brookings Area Habitat for Humanity to build a Habitat home away from their usual classroom/shop location.

“We reached out to Habitat and pretty much all the stars aligned,” Skogen said. “The timing was great in terms of what was going on with the build, but building on site presents some new challenges as well as opportunities.” 

While tasks such as ongoing tool sanitizing, limited sharing of tools, and smaller work crews to minimize interaction are in place due to the pandemic, Skogen’s primary goal remains ensuring the students gain employability skills such as personal responsibility, initiative, problem solving, integrity and a good work ethic. 

“Nearly every contractor or employer I speak with in the area is looking for quality employees,” Skogen said. “We try to expose and educate the students about all of the great positions available and tied to the building trades industry.”

Now, while strengthening their skills, the students are also helping make a difference for others. Habitat, which relies on volunteers, welcomed the partnership with open arms.

“Volunteers are the backbone of our organization,” Habitat’s Construction Director Trever Shelden said. “The student help is wonderful because not only are they learning the trades, but they are furthering their sense of community and volunteerism.”

If things go well, the groups hope to continue the relationship on future builds. 

“Whether part of the class experience, or simply volunteering on their own, we certainly hope it continues,” Habitat Executive Director Dan McColley said. “It is great for them to drive by a home years later and see the impact their education helped make on our community.”

“One nice aspect of this is it gives back to the community,” Skogen added. “It gives the students a sense of community service.”

The home, located at 311 Eighth Ave., is the 76th Habitat home in the area, and is set to be completed by spring 2021.

Brookings Area Habitat for Humanity is celebrating 25 years of building strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter.

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