By Garrett Shiflet Ι Daily Sun Staff Writer Ι January 28, 2023
Debbie Duket’s 13-year-old granddaughter soon will have her own room for the first time. Duket’s family is receiving one of the homes students with The Villages High School’s Construction Management Academy are building in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter. “She and I have shared a room for 13 years, so we are thrilled,” she said. “She wants to decorate.”
The 27 academy seniors are building two homes this year instead of one — a first for the academy. Students, sponsors and community members celebrated the halfway point of both homes with a dry-in ceremony Friday at the home sites in Wildwood.
Citizens First Bank is sponsoring Duket’s home, a 1,461-square-foot house with three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
Duket will move in by the end of the school year with her daughter Victoria Duket and her granddaughter Dylann Duket.
“They’re beautiful homes, well-made,” Debbie said. “And I just feel like there is so much love in it. I got goosebumps walking in it today. It’s almost done. It’s so close.”
Brad Weber, executive vice president and chief lending officer of Citizens First Bank, said projects like this benefit families and communities as a whole.
“We know it is proven that homeownership brings up the quality of every community,” Weber said. “And that’s why projects like this are so important.”
Weber also said it is an investment for the students.
“Not only are we building two homes, and not only are we improving the quality of the community, but we’re improving the quality of our future with these students who work so hard on these homes,” he said.
RoMac Building Supply, based in Leesburg, is sponsoring the second home, a 1,215-square-foot house with two bedrooms and one bathroom.
Don Magruder, chief executive officer of RoMac Building Supply, said he looks at the students as the future of the industry.
“But more importantly, you guys are doing something very important for these families and this community,” he told them during the ceremony. “You’re doing something good and it makes you feel good about this generation coming up.”
The construction projects allow students to work with industry partners and learn all the skills needed to build a home.
They can earn industry certifications while in the academy and gain valuable job experience.
Danielle Stroud, president and chief executive officer Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter, spoke on the partnership that VHS and the organization share.
“Our charter school relationship was the very first construction academy relationship — the very first Habitat home that produced the youth construction academy at Habitat for Humanity,” Stroud said. “Which I will tell you is rare. There’s no other partnerships like this across the country.”
Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter also works with students at Eustis High School, Leesburg High School and South Lake High School. Stroud announced that Wildwood Middle High School will join Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter’s Youth Construction Academy program.
Jordan Parry, a VHS senior in the academy, said he is enjoying his time on the project.
“It’s been pretty good,” Parry said. “Staying busy for sure, and everyone is on task and on schedule. And (I’m) working with really good people who actually like to work.”
VHS Principal Rob Grant said he is proud students have access to this opportunity that can build their careers.
“There’s not too many kids that can graduate high school and say they built two houses in a year,” Grant said.
Bruce Haberle, instructor for the Construction Management Academy, said the homes will be finished around the same time before the end of the school year.
The homes still need the trim, mechanical and landscaping components.
“I think it’s really incredible we are this far on these two houses,” he said. “Last year we did one in the same amount of time and we have a really great group this year.”
Haberle said one of his favorite aspects of the academy is seeing the students grow.
“My favorite part is just to see the kids learn … to see the success of the kids,” he said.