Students build a house and their skills

BOTHELL — The patch of land close to Mill Creek was a grass lot when Kevin Sykes and 32 other high school students arrived last September to build a rambler.

“We’d be out there in the pouring rain pouring concrete and stuff,” said Sykes, 16, a Scriber Lake High School student.

Thursday, Sykes and students from several Edmonds School District high schools gathered in front of their just-completed handiwork off Third Avenue SE for a celebration honoring completion of the house.

The Joint House Project is a collaboration between Rotary Club of Lynnwood and the school district that, since 1975, provides students with hands-on construction training.

Students worked 10 hours a week alongside professionals to build the 1,350 square foot, single-story house and two-car garage.

“I got a lot of experience working with them,” said Hunter Burke, 18, a Lynnwood High School student who won a $1,000 Rotary scholarship. “We had electricians and plumbers come in and I got the chance to work with them and see what they do. It gave me a pretty good idea of what their job is actually like.”

Students from Meadowdale, Mountlake Terrace, Scriber Lake and Lynnwood High Schools — as well as home-schooled students — were eligible for 18 college credits as part of the program.

Many of those enrolled in the program also got part-time jobs working with contractors during the school year, said Scott Hammond, the Lynnwood High teacher who managed the house project.

“We’re trying to reach out to students who might otherwise have dropped out of school,” said Todd Brunner, a Lynnwood construction business owner and chairman of the foundation’s House Committee. He said Lynnwood High School design students are designing a house that students will build next year, just blocks from the latest project.

Proceeds from sale of the houses go back to the foundation so it can buy land for more projects, foundation president Travis Snider said.

The man responsible for starting the program also was happy for the students.

Dave Thomson said that in 1975 a friend asked him if he knew of any fire-damaged houses students could rebuild.

“I asked him, ‘How are you going to find a burned-down house every year?’ ”

Thomson, a Rotary member, worked to get funds set aside to start the program.

Jim Stark went through the program from 1983 to 1985 while he was a Meadowdale High School student. He’s spent the past 25 years working in construction.

“Virtually the week after I graduated, I went for a job interview and started work that Monday,” he said.

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