It didn’t take long for Debbie Duket to start making plans for her new home.
“First, I’m going to put everything in my kitchen and I’m going to cook to my heart’s desire and have people over to eat,” Debbie said. “I’m so excited about using this kitchen, I can’t even tell you.”
Duket and her daughter, Victoria Duket, and granddaughter, Dylann Duket, are the recipients of one of two houses in Wildwood built by students in The Villages High School’s Construction Management Academy in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter.
The dedication ceremony for the Dukets’ home, sponsored by Citizens First Bank, took place April 20, and the ceremony for the McPherson family home, sponsored by RoMac Distribution, happened Monday.
“This isn’t a house, it’s a home,” said Brad Weber, executive vice president and chief lending officer of Citizens First Bank. “And Debbie, this morning you woke up in the place you were living and tonight you get to lay your head down in your own home.”
This is the first time VHS students built two homes in one school year. The program allows them to get hands-on experience in construction while learning the importance of community service.
“It’s a vision in the beginning and they bring it to life,” Debbie said. “With Habitat, the people and the kids, every person involved — they bring it to life.”
VHS student Brett Wilke liked working with his classmates on the project, especially the early stage of putting the framing together.
“It was very interesting — it was fun,” Wilke said. “We learned a lot.”
Wilke said the program has benefits beyond bolstering a future career.
“With this type of stuff, even if you don’t do it for a career, it’s stuff you can do by yourself at your house if something breaks,” Wilke said. “You don’t have to pay someone a bunch of money to fix it, you can do it yourself.”
Though contractors are required to do some of the work on the homes, students work right alongside them.
“It’s a great hands-on experience,” said Pastor Perez, a senior in the academy. “From literally starting from the ground up, starting the framing, all the way up to doing the roofing and the shingles and all that.”
Perez said he enjoyed the experiential form of learning.
“There isn’t a day you’re not learning something different,” Perez said.
At the second ceremony, Shannon McPherson and her son, Devin McPherson, got the keys to their home.
Both expressed appreciation for the work that went into the project.
“I’d come to look at and take pictures (of the home), and there was love and energy when you walked in, even from just the outside,” Shannon said to the students. “I was always seeing all the precision and hard work that you put into our home, and I thank you so much.”