House built by Lee students goes up for auction today

Jul. 31, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

Not many high school students can say they have helped build a house from the ground up. But that is just what a number of students from Lee County and Southern Lee high schools did from November to June.

The three-bedroom, two-bathroom home, built entirely by students of the Lee County Career and Technical Education program, will be put up for auction today at the construction site at Lee County High School across from the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center at 5:30 p.m.

"I'm real proud of these kids for what they've done," said Southern Lee Carpentry Instructor Chris Nance. "I hope they are as well."

In past years, students from Lee County and Southern Lee built separate houses. Because of weakness in the housing economy, Nance, and his counterpart at Lee County, Quinlan Henry, agreed that working together on one house would be best.

"It's definitely something that ties the kids to community," Henry said. "It gives them something to be proud of. They can drive their friends, parents or grandparents down the road and say 'That's what I did this week. I built that.' I see them brag about it to their friends."

Aaron Fleming, Lee County Schools' director of Career and Technical Education, said the benefits of the construction project go far beyond pride.

"Students earn industry certifications for going through the program," Fleming said. "They walk away with a sense of accomplishment. They're gaining a skill that many people have to go to a community college or a four-year college to get, and they get it right out of high school. ... They have a leg up on the competition in other parts of the state."

Fleming said the Lee County school system has been running the program for more than 40 years and, historically, students who go through the program have been able to find immediate employment in construction after they graduate high school.

Henry said watching his students learn and grow throughout the semester is one of the most fulfilling parts of the program, and that seeing the roof go on is one of the best moments of the year.

"We're always excited when we get to the point of getting the roof on top and seeing the structure come together," Henry said. "I like to see the smiles on those kids' faces when they see that roof. The outside shell comes together, and it starts looking like a house, not a bunch of boards. I always get a pretty good bunch of kids who take a lot of pride in what they're doing and work well together out there."

Henry said the design of this year's house has been his favorite in all five years he has been with the program. Nance said the house this year was the largest either school has done so far.

"This one is 1,628 square feet," Nance said. "It is definitely the largest."

Nance was never concerned that his students weren't up to the task.

"My favorite part is when we have those days where the kids demonstrate what they know," Nance said. "It almost runs on autopilot. You teach the kids the skills in class and in the shop, and then you get out on the job site and just point them in the right direction and watch them work."

All the work is done now. The carpeting is put in. The insulation work is done. The windows and counter tops and painting are all taken care of. The only thing left to do is to auction the house to the highest bidder.

Fleming said houses have sold for as much as $70,000.

He said anyone hoping to purchase the house could arrive at Lee County High School at 5 p.m. to take a tour, and bidding would start around 5:30 p.m.