Students earn class credit while building Habitat for Humanity house

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. With nails and saws, students in this year's Explore summer school program are earning their practical arts credit, which is a graduation requirement for high school students in Missouri.

"Because in school, I take so many science classes and different arts classes, I wanted to be able to take it during the summer, and this was one of the options," said Regan Puckett, incoming senior at Parkview High School.

For the first time ever, the Springfield School District's summer program has partnered with Habitat for Humanity. Students had two days in the classroom, learning safety procedures, before they went to work.

"I didn't even know we were going to be working for Habitat for Humanity until a week before the class started," said Joel Bilyeu, incoming senior at Parkview. "But when I found out, I was really excited and it's actually helped me learn a lot of things about just how to care of a house that I wouldn't have been able to learn in just an intro to construction class."

Larry Peterson, Executive Director for Habitat for Humanity of Springfield, said the partnership between the school district and the non-profit is a win-win.

"They're going to have skills that they can take home, they're going to learn that volunteering is not a chore, it's actually a good time," he said. "[You] get to make new friends and you get to meet new people, and at the end of the day, you might want to come back and work again."

By the end of the class, students can walk away with not just their class credit and some handy skills, but also a sense of pride in what they've accomplished.

"We're not just working on some little project in a closed classroom space," Bilyeu said. "What we're doing right now, and since we're all motivated to do a good job, it's actually going to help a family who's going to live here some day. And that's pretty cool."

"Making a house for someone is so interesting," added Puckett. "Because this house is going to hold a lot of memories for a family, and I like that I'm a part of that."

Habitat for Humanity does not give away the houses they build. Although they are affordable, families do have to buy them. Habitat already has a family lined up to buy the home the students are working on.

The Explore class runs through June 14.