The morning of November 22nd, 2019 marked the dedication of the first Habitat house completed by The Inmate Construction Academy. A crowd of family members, inmates, and others from the community gathered to celebrate the dedication of the Santiago-Lozada family and their new home. As Sheriff Grinnell handed the key to their home, sweet tears of joy fell as the crowd’s applause filled the air. This was a very special moment for the Santiago-Lozado family and all who were involved in its creation. The completion of this home also marks the close to the first year of the Inmate Construction Academy.
Back in 2017, when Hurricane Marie struck the island of Puerto Rico, the Santiago-Lozada family was one of many who lost their homes. Two years later, the Santiago-Lozada’s have been given a fresh start; a new home, one where their young son can grow up and they can begin to re-build their lives. In closing this first chapter to the Inmate Construction Academy, the program’s goal was to mirror the fresh beginning given to the new homeowners and symbolize a chance for inmates from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office to begin re-building their lives as well.
One of the things that makes this home so special, aside from the journey of the homeowner, is the hardworking people who volunteered their time to make it happen. The majority of this home’s construction, and the record time in which it was built, is an accreditation to the Inmate Construction Academy; a partnership between Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, and community support. Under the direction of Construction Leader, Ernie Burley, and Master Deputy, Dave Wolniak, the home was completed in less than 5 months.
Deputy Wolniak describes the goal of the Inmate Construction Academy as a means to help inmates gain experience to carry into their lives post-sentence and as Wolniak says “to keep going in a good direction.”
Deputy Wolniak says the endeavor has been great for the inmates that built this home, saying “a lot of inmates are grateful for the knowledge and experience they’ve gained” and he looks forward to replicating a new home build with the partnership of Habitat Lake-Sumter in the near future.
Thank you to Sheriff Grinnell and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office for partnering with Habitat Lake-Sumter to build homes, communities, and hope.
The construction trade programs in our local high schools and technical schools are exploding with student growth and interest as young people are realizing that college is not for everyone and great career opportunities exist with construction-related skillsets. The writing is on the wall as technology will eliminate millions of jobs in manufacturing, retail and service-related industries over the next decade. Good college degree jobs in offices that exist today will be gone tomorrow — just ask people in the banking industry. Young people are seeing the future clearly and understand career paths are changing.
There are now construction academies in Lake and Sumter Counties — at Leesburg High School, Eustis High School, South Lake High School and The Villages Charter High School. There are over 300 students enrolled in these programs, and two of these academies (Leesburg and The Villages) are building homes for Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter.
Lake Tech is growing each semester with technical training in construction-related fields, and they are seeing continued growth in students and industry needs. Apprenticeship programs are springing up throughout Central Florida with groups like iBuild Central Florida laying the foundation for huge growth in training.
For any young person who is undecided whether to pursue a career in the construction trades or go to college, allow me to make the case for pursuing a career in the construction trades.
• Most skilled craftspeople earn more than most people who have a college degree. Even entry-level workers in the construction industry have an opportunity to earn more than most liberal arts majors leaving a university. Master craftspeople can easily earn more than those who have a Ph.D.
• Once you become a skilled craftsperson and you have your own tools, you become recession proof. Sure, the economy could falter and building slow down again. However, skilled craftspeople can always find work doing repairs for homeowners and businesses. If you have the skills, tools and ambition — you can always find work to put food on the table.
• No student debt is required. The high school construction academies are free, Lake Tech is stunningly affordable and many companies offer scholarships for training. There is over $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, which will bury a generation. The tradespeople will be the ones buying homes and fixing them up in the future because they will make more money and have less debt.
LEESBURG — A dozen Leesburg High School students will be doing more than math equations, English essays and science experiments this year. They’ll be constructing a home from the ground up, too.
The three-bedroom, two-bath home will be built near downtown Leesburg for a family in need as part of a unique partnership between Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter and Leesburg High’s Construction Academy.
Groundbreaking took place Monday at 107 N. 12th St., with a throng of state and local elected officials, business leaders and members of the community showing support for both the project and the academy. The vacant lot was donated by the city.
“This is great — the students and Leesburg High School needed it, the city of Leesburg needed it and the community needed it,” said Don Magruder, CEO of RoMac Building Supply and chairman of the academy’s advisory committee.
Roughly 100 students are enrolled in the academy, and the 12 students participating in the build were chosen based on their performance and leadership in the classroom. Each was required to have at least one year of construction classes.
“They are really a great group of talented kids,” said Lynnea Weissman, project manager with the Lake County school district’s office of College and Career Readiness. “It’s an opportunity for them to give back to the community.”
During the roughly eight-month project, the students will work alongside Habitat’s construction staff and professional tradespeople. They’ll use skills they’ve learned in class to work on every phase of the build, including the foundation and framing, electricity, plumbing, windows, doors, flooring and painting.
Senior Max Acosta, who is in his third year at the academy, said he walked into the academy during his sophomore year and fell in love with the program.
“It makes me feel really good to work on a project like this,” he said. “I’ll have a well-paid job after high school, too.”
Leesburg High School Construction Academy students broke ground on a new home they’re building with Habitat for Humanity Lake-Sumter. At the end of the build, expected in May, the students will hand off the keys to the new homeowner.
LEESBURG — As the morning sun beat down Monday on 107 N. 12th St., the once-empty city lot bustled with activity.
Dozens of Leesburg, Lake County and state business people and representatives gathered at the unassuming address behind the Sunoco gas station to witness the groundbreaking of an innovative project: a home that will be built from the ground up with the help of local students.
Ten students from the Leesburg High School Construction Academy broke ground Monday on a home they’ll spend the school year building with staff from Habitat for Humanity Lake-Sumter. It’s a big task, but the team thinks they can do it.
“I feel like I’m gonna get out here and bust my butt and get it done,” LHS sophomore Jacob Moore said, looking out over the freshly turned dirt.
Moore said he and his classmates — who were selected from among those who qualified for the project based on their skill and exceptional teamwork — hadn’t had much time to get to know each other or their new instructor, but there will be plenty more time once they get on the job. They expect to work four days most weeks.
The academy’s new instructor, Jim Ellwood, said he’s confident too, and he wants to see the students succeed. Ellwood, who’s spent more than 40 years in the construction industry, said it’s more important than ever that students have opportunities like the build.
“Right now there’s a huge need for skilled workers,” he said. “If we do not train these students, we have no one to blame but ourselves.”
Kent Adcock, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Lake-Sumter, said a home build usually doesn’t take a full school year, but because it’s a teaching opportunity, they’ll be working slow. He predicts the students will finish it around April or May, just in time to hand off the keys to the homeowner.
“I think this will be a transformative event for the students,” Adcock said, noting that the students will get to see the finished product at the end of the year and will personally hand the keys over to the new owner.
Monday will be the official groundbreaking of a Habitat for Humanity Lake-Sumter home built by Leesburg High School Construction Academy students and Habitat staffers. Students will work on the project from start to finish.
LEESBURG — State and local officials, business leaders and community residents are invited to celebrate the ground-breaking of a new Habitat for Humanity home built by Habitat Lake-Sumter and students from the Leesburg High Construction Academy.
The ceremony takes place on Monday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the home site, 107 North 12th St. The land for the home was donated by the city.
“This is a wonderful community project,” said Don Magruder, RoMac Building Supply CEO and academy advisory committee chairman. “We will have refreshments, a few speeches, the Leesburg High band and cheerleaders there. We are encouraging all the downtown merchants and the Leesburg Chamber of Commerce to participate with us, and we want the public to come out as well. It’s important for these students to know we support them in their efforts not only to prepare for a great career, but to also give back to their community.”
Production of the Habitat home will be a yearlong project in which students will put lessons from the previous year into practice. They’ll be working on the home from its foundations to the last coat of paint.
Students will work side-by-side with Habitat’s construction staff and professional tradespeople, many of whom plan to donate their time and resources toward the project and serve as mentors for the students.
Leesburg Construction Academy Students To Celebrate Groundbreaking of Home They Will Build With Habitat For Humanity
State and local elected officials, business leaders and community residents are invited to celebrate a new partnership between Leesburg High School Construction Academy students and Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter Florida, as the two break ground on a home they will build in Leesburg for a family in need.
The ceremony takes place on Monday, Aug. 26, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the home site, 107 N. 12th Street, which was donated by the city.
“This is a wonderful community project,’’ said Don Magruder, CEO of RoMac Building Supply and chairman of the academy’s advisory committee. “We will have refreshments, a few speeches, the Leesburg High band and cheerleaders there. We are encouraging all the downtown merchants and the Leesburg Chamber of Commerce to participate with us, and we want the public to come out as well. It’s important for these students to know we support them in their efforts not only to prepare for a great career but to also give back to their community.”
Production of the Habitat home will give students an opportunity to put into practice what they have been learning in class. It will be a yearlong project, during which the students will work on every phase of the house including building the foundation and framing; installing electricity, plumbing, doors, windows, sheetrock and flooring; and painting. Students will work side by side with Habitat’s construction staff and professional tradespeople, many of whom plan to donate their time and resources toward the project and serve as mentors for the students.
Students participating in the build were selected from a large pool of applicants. They were required to have taken at least one year of construction classes at Leesburg High School and demonstrated exceptional performance and leadership in their classwork. They also had to write an essay explaining why they would be a good addition to “the dream team.”
Dressed in her work boots, Villages High School senior Ashley Hess looked over the patch of grass Friday where, soon, she and her classmates will build a family’s home. “This experience will help me build something from the ground up,” she said. The Villages High School seniors, who are students in the school’s Construction Management Academy, joined about 40 others for a groundbreaking ceremony hosted by Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter on Friday for a new home on Orange Circle near Lemon Street in Lady Lake. Habitat and the academy are working together on the project to provide a new home for Brandee Shields of Ocklawaha. Shields attended the ceremony before she headed to work for The Villages Health. The mother of two boys, ages 8 and 9, is looking forward to her new home.
“I’m excited, overwhelmed and so thankful to be a part of the whole process,” she said.
Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter, with the help of volunteers and sponsors, builds affordable homes. The homes are sold to those who demonstrate a need and are willing to partner with the organization by performing activities such as participating in the building of their home. The home on Orange Circle marks the second that seniors in the school’s academy will work on, said Bruce Haberle, the instructor for the academy.
Last year, Haberle led about 11 seniors on the project. They worked from August until May to complete their first home. The program was such a success that Habitat and the academy decided to work together again, Haberle said.
This year, he will have five seniors working on-site during two morning class periods, and hopes to have seven more seniors in his afternoon class work on the home.
f the home have not been determined by Habitat, the approval process should be completed by the group in early fall.
“Habitat for Humanity is a hand up, not a handout,” said Kent Adcock, president and CEO of Habitat, adding that the group has a qualification process that requires “sweat equity” homeownership for each project.
The Construction Academy’s Habitat project is a community project that is truly a collaborative effort.
The revamped Construction Academy was one of the top priorities of incoming Lake County Schools Superintendent Diane Kornegay, who mustered the construction industry to support an $866,000 grant from the state of Florida. Through the efforts of Kornegay and the Lake County School Board, LHS received the grant last summer. Lynnea Weissman, grant project manager for Career and College Readiness, was tasked by Lake County Schools to develop the construction program and institute Kornegay’s vision.
A great deal of the success of the project is owed to State Rep. Jennifer Sullivan and State Sen. Dennis Baxley, who championed the grant in the Florida Legislature.
Weissman assembled an advisory board of local leaders who committed to the program’s success by meeting monthly to help develop a career pathway for students in the construction trades. The board brought real world construction expertise to the academy and helps with mentorships, training, demonstrations and the development of soft skills needed for employment. The board also assisted in setting up the first Academy of Construction Technologies (ACT), which allows member construction companies to hire students for summer paid internships. Students in the LHS Construction Academy now have the opportunity to work in real construction jobs at very attractive pay rates. Plus, these students are seeing firsthand the lucrative jobs offered in the building trades.
Jasmine Jacobs held tightly to her 6-year-old daughter’s hand as they walked up to their new home together. Awaiting their arrival were some of the people who helped her become a first-time homeowner, including 11 seniors from the construction management academy at The Villages High School. The young builders stood proudly outside the brand-new home on Winners Circle in Lady Lake as it glistened in the sunlight Friday morning.—Rachel Stuart, The Villages Daily Sun
As the first graduating class, the success of the partnership between the Villages Charter School and Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter was evident in the smiling faces of the new homeowner, students, teachers, and sponsors alike.
As the Youth Construction Academy expands to include Leesburg High School and over 70 new students; the success and growth of the Youth Construction Academy is due in no small part to United Way of Lake-Sumter. United Way has chosen Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter to receive an education grant in support of the Youth Construction Academy.
The Villages Charter High School students worked alongside industry professionals, instructors, and Habitat Construction Manager, Barry Martin, to build the house as part of their capstone project; construction began in August with the students building as their first period class.
“They were able to hone their construction skills and get a realistic feel for the business,” said Bruce Haberle, instructor of the construction management academy. “It’s a team-building experience where they were able to give back to those who are less fortunate.”
United Way’s mission is to “advance the common good by focusing on education, income and health,” Habitat of Lake-Sumter and United Way share in the belief that these three things are the “building blocks for a good life—a quality education that leads to a stable job, enough income to support a family through retirement, and good health.”
Thanks to United Way of Lake-Sumter and their ongoing partnership with Habitat’s Youth Construction Academy, the graduating class will be the first of many students to gain experience, acquire employable skills, and engage in the social responsibility and community impact that shapes professional and personal development.
“It’s been amazing, and they’ve done a great job,” said Danielle Stroud, Senior Director of Development for Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter. “We really hope they learned something along the way, which is the purpose of this partnership.”
Check out some photos from the dedication on our Facebook Page!
A local family soon will have a home with the help of 11 seniors from The Villages High School.
The students are building an 1,100-square-foot house in Lady Lake through the school’s Construction Management Academy’s partnership with Habitat for Humanity, a housing organization that works with communities across the nation.
On Thursday, the roof trusses were set on the house where the students have worn hard hats and climbed ladders four days a week since the beginning of the school year.
VHS Principal Bill Zwick stood at the construction site to observe and admire their hard work.
“This gives them the total experience of building a house from beginning to end,” Zwick said. “When they graduate, they’ll have this background knowledge. It’s a learning experience that will benefit them no matter where they go in life.”
The students started building the back wall Aug. 16, and their hands will be on the house until the project is complete at the end of the school year. So far, they are on schedule.
The two-year academy launched last year, and this is the first year it has been offered to both juniors and seniors.
The juniors learn the basics of construction and go through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration 10-hour training, and the seniors put their skills to the test.
“It gives us a good foundation to build a career,” said senior Colby Sharp, 17.