Students Help Fulfill Family’s Home Dream

By Garrett Shiflet | Daily Sun Staff Writer | May 2, 2022

Students in the VHS Construction Management Academy worked with Habitat for Humanity to build the new home.


A local family of five has finally gotten the home it always wanted. On Friday morning, Habitat for Humanity Lake-Sumter and members of the Construction Management Academy at The Villages High School presented the keys to a brand new home in Wildwood to Shane Thomas, Nicole Brandon and their three children. Thomas addressed the crowd at the dedication ceremony. “This means a lot to my family,” he said. “We struggled a lot for a long time, so to be able to have a home that we can call our own — it’s hard to put it into words.” All 13 VHS seniors in the construction academy were involved in various capacities throughout the build, from flooring to the roof’s trusses, to help them get a real feel for the work.

The Construction Management Academy is just one of multiple academies available at The Villages High School that prepare students for postsecondary education and the workforce. 

“These are kids building a home like this,” Thomas said. “It’s amazing, guys.”

During the ceremony, each student was introduced, and construction academy instructor Bruce Haberle commented on their performance in the program. VHS Principal Rob Grant also was in attendance.

“It’s one of my favorite days of the year as a principal — being able to come out and see the accomplishments of our kids,” Grant said.

Danielle Stroud, president and chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity Lake-Sumter, spoke about what building and dedicating a home means for students and the community.

“What you guys built here today will last past your time in school,” Stroud said. “And it will continue to invest in families just like you guys.”

The Brandon family put in more than 200 “sweat equity hours,” which included helping out with the build and taking financial literacy courses, Stroud said.

Habitat for Humanity Lake-Sumter makes sure the housing is affordable with a manageable mortgage.

Citizens First Bank was the build’s sponsor this year.

“There are over 400 of us at the bank,” said Citizens First Bank Executive Vice President Brad Weber. “It’s not just the bank that sponsors this. There are 400 of us that represent over 400 families that actually care about sponsoring this house and doing work on this house. So there is a whole lot of love that goes into this.”

Munn’s Air Conditioning & Heating, Hess Construction, T&D Concrete, DZ Concrete and many other partners made up the team of contractors and subcontractors that helped with the build in various capacities. Students worked alongside them, learning insulation and electrical work while doing other tasks, such as hammering nails and putting up heavy trusses and walls.

At the end of Friday’s ceremony, Weber had Haberle and his students pass the family’s new house key and say a few words.

Student Madison Seitzler said it was one of the biggest moments of their lives.

“It’s joyful — a lot of excitement and relief knowing this day has finally come,” Seitzler said

Seitzler plans to continue to pursue a career in construction while studying at the College of Central Florida in Ocala.

In addition to the home, the family also received other gifts. The Villages Home Decorating Club decorated the house, the Lake-Sumter chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution donated an American flag and Habitat for Humanity Lake-Sumter gave the family a toolbox and a Bible.

Habitat for Humanity Lake-Sumter also partners with Leesburg High School, Eustis High School and South Lake

High School to build homes for families in those areas.