Construction students find inspiration, confidence and community connections
Students at FutureForward at Washington Square are building the first of five tiny homes to house young people that are aging out of the foster care system and have nowhere else to go. When children age out of foster care, they become ineligible to receive state assistance with housing, food and medical care under the foster care system, leaving them at risk for homelessness.
Gianluca “Luca” Mastroeni is one of the students building the tiny homes in the Advanced Principles of Construction class.
“I think the idea is cool because we’re not only able to learn about construction elements, but we’re also able to give back to our community,” Luca said.
The tiny homes Luca and his classmates are building will have a loft sleeping space, living room, kitchen and bathroom, all compacted to make the most of the small space. The tiny homes will be just 190 square feet, but offer a world of independence to their new owners.
“Being able to build something like this and see it actually come to fruition has been really inspiring,” Luca said.
The class instructor, Aaron Cooper is proud to prepare his students not just to build a home, but to build a career. The Construction Pathway takes students through courses over several years where they’ll learn and hone skills in areas like HVAC, plumbing, and electricity, and ends with a professional internship with a local business.
“We’re doing everything in the tiny homes that we do in the real world,” Aaron said. “Our students are learning a trade where they’ll be able to go to work right after high school.”
The project has helped the students build not only their skills, but also their confidence and sense of connection to their community.
“This project allows the students to see their work not just get torn down but actually be meaningful,” Aaron said. “It gives the students a sense of accomplishment to see their work go right back into the community.”
The project was originally planned to be built and sold for future costs, but a local donor passionate about helping kids in the foster care system, Bob Lempke of 70 Ranch, made expanding the project possible with his large donation to the Five Star Education Foundation for Adams 12 Five Star Schools.
Shannon Hancock, Executive Director of the Foundation, is coordinating a coalition of local nonprofits to create the tiny home village right in Adams County.
“There's a large population of our students that are experiencing homelessness and those aging out of the system have nowhere to go,” Shannon said. “These houses are going to create a place that they can call home and they can thrive. It's about the community wrapping big arms around these kids to have a place they call home.”
The coalition put together by the Foundation will work with nonprofits in the area to make sure the tiny home recipients have the services they need and are connected to the community that wants to support them.
“The fact that this has come together into so much more than a school project really speaks to the community,” Shannon said. “There’s no one group that can make this happen — it’s going to take a village to make this village. I’ll be so excited to see an Adams 12 Five Star student live there and really thrive.”
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