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McKeesport tech students put the finishing touch on dreams

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By Jennifer R. Vertullo
Monday, March 5, 2012

Knowing that a home is the most important investment of a person's life, McKeesport Area High School students are making home ownership fun for one lucky bidder as they build skills to one day have homes of their own.

High school students enrolled in McKeesport Area Technology Center's building and construction program are putting finishing touches on one modular home and beginning construction on another.

This is the 10th home that McKeesport Area's career/technology students will put up for bid since teacher Mike Locke has been leading the program.

"We do something different every time," Locke said. "The new one is going to have a different floor plan."

The finished home is a custom-built 30-by-56-foot modular home that can be set on a partial or full foundation. It features spacious bedrooms with closets, two full baths, a master bedroom suite that includes a full bath with two sinks and a walk-in closet. Each room is complimented by 9-foot ceilings that are accented with custom crown molding.

"We had to come up with our own roof design to accommodate these ceilings," Locke said. "You don't get 9-foot ceilings in a modular home. It's unique. It's something we wanted to do to make it feel like a regularly built home."

The drywall is finished white in each room.

"The drywall is what students get the most frustrated with," Locke said, noting that students try their hardest to make everything perfect.

"They care for what they're building," he said. "They take a lot of pride in it. They treat it like it's their home."

Each student has a favorite part of the home. Every part from the kitchen cabinets to the bathroom fixtures to the arches that separate the living room from the entryway is special to those who built it.

"You can stand back and look at it and see what you helped to build," senior Miracle Brown said.

Sophomore Dale Wardropper said the building and construction program makes students feel confident and involved.

"None of us feel more alive than we do in this shop," Dale said. "Our teacher makes us feel like we should be here. He encourages us to make us push ourselves harder." Locke said his students deserve all the credit, because he simply provides them with an opportunity to explore their talent and acquire valuable life skills. The building and construction program is more than a trade course, he said.

"Your home is the biggest investment in life," he said. "You should invest well." Locke said homeowners should have the skills to maintain the homes they purchase. That could mean anything from taking on a large remodeling job to saving a few dollars completing small plumbing or electrical repairs without hiring a professional.

"They're getting experience in everything, including plumbing, electrical work, masonry, carpentry," he said. "If they can learn how to paint or anything, it's money in their pocket. They can do nice things to their own homes."

Locke is proud of his students for completing the home at the same skill level if not better as any construction crew.

"The kids do the work, but you have a foreman and a crew just like any other job," he said. "We have to hold them to a higher standard. Everything has to be built a little bit better because it has to be craned. It's a stronger home."

Locke praised students for their dedication.

"They come out here in all the weather," he said. "Doesn't matter cold, rain, snow." Students check in on the finished home daily as they work nearby on another structure that will be completed later in the year.

The finished home is ready for a buyer to set the home on an existing footer or foundation. The buyer will be responsible for the installation of heating and air conditioning, hot water tank, electrical service and the finishing of interior and exterior seams.

For more information on the home or to participate in the bidding process, contact McKeesport Area Technology Center at 412-664-3664.

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