VHS Students Build Homes and Dreams

By Garrett Shiflet Ι Daily Sun Staff Writer Ι August 15, 2022


With shovels in hand, 26 students heaved the first pile of dirt at the site of their newest home-building project. 

The Villages High School’s Construction Management Academy and Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter held a groundbreaking ceremony Friday for their latest partnership, at 4506 NE 32nd Place in Wildwood. 

“We are here to serve families who otherwise would not have the opportunity to have a home,” said Danielle Stroud, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter. “So you are really providing a unique chance for them by building a generational home, not just for that family, but also their children.” 

This will be the fifth home built by the Construction Management Academy, with instructors overseeing the students as they are involved in the construction process from the foundation up, including working on drywall, flooring and framing and placing roof trusses. 

Throughout the project, students also will work with area subcontractors and trade professionals, gaining valuable on-the-job experience in the construction industry. 

Savannah Lester, a senior at The Villages High School, said she is ready to get her hands dirty.

“It’s really cool,” Lester said. “It’s a really good experience to learn, definitely as a high schooler and not having much experience, but we are going to learn it in the next year.” 

Lester said she plans to major in business in college and get her general contractor license. 

“I like working with my hands and I like doing things outside,” Lester said. “I was born and raised in construction. It’s something I always enjoyed.”

She is joined by 25 other seniors on this yearlong project,  including Landon Capazzi.

“It’s cool that I get to build a house for someone who needs it,” Capazzi said. “It’s also cool to say, ‘I just built a house’ and it’ll be cool to look back on.”

Capazzi plans to go into construction after high school as a home inspector. 

VHS principal Rob Grant spoke at the groundbreaking event, praising the work the academy does with this project. 

“They get that valid hands-on experience out here,”Grant said. “Not only the construction part, but they get that life lesson of helping people and really doing the right thing.”

Grant hopes the students involved will remain in the area and look back on the project with pride. 

“When they have kids and they’re in the charter school, they can do the same thing,” Grant said. “Or they may want to drive through and say, ‘I built that when I was in high school.’ Not too many kids can say that.”

Citizens First Bank once again is the sponsor of the home-build. 

“We at Citizens First Bank are thrilled to be sponsor of another home, right next to the one from last year,” said Brad Weber, executive vice president and chief lending officer of Citizens First Bank. “This is about building a dream. That is what we do in this community as bankers, and as educators and as future construction managers in our area.”

The Construction Management Academy will have its work cut out for it this year, with students building two homes in one year for the first time, according to a Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter news release. 

The second home will be in the same vicinity as the current project.

“The success of The Villages Charter School students and the Youth Construction Academy program has allowed the program to expand to three additional schools, investing in students’ education and providing, at minimum, four new affordable housing opportunities,” Stroud said in a news release.

The program also is available at Leesburg High School, South Lake High School and Eustis High School. 

To learn more about Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter, visit habitatls.org