Students in the program got their start in September building a shed for Habitat. They're now refining and expanding their skills on the Habitat house, which was donated by Elkhart County.
The hope is that by the end of the program, students will have the chance to build a new house from scratch, said Marcie Troyer, regional director for The Crossing.
The Crossing is an alternative school that offers educational programs for students who may not have been successful in a traditional school setting. Its goal is to reach out to students who are struggling and help them find a sense of self worth and to further their education, Troyer said.
The Building Trades program is the result of collaboration between Habitat and Rob Staley, executive director of The Crossing.
Staley wanted to create a trade program for students that would enrich the community. Participating doesn't guarantee students will go on to become contractors. But it does equip students with skills such as plumbing and electrical contracting, which can be valuable in the work force or simply at home, Staley said.
Habitat, which was looking to increase its housing production, was anxious to become a part of the project. Habitat has received grants from the Elkhart County Community Foundation and Goshen Health System that were used to underwrite costs of the Building Trades program. Habitat is also close to finding a sponsor for the first house the program is hoping to build, said Juliana Schirmer, resource development director for Habitat.
"At Habitat we believe in teaching people new skills and trades, and so this went well with our mission," said Schirmer.
The Crossing offers several other similar programs. Students in an automotive technology program are building hot rods. There's an arts and music program where students have access to a recording studio. Some have even built their own guitars, Staley said.
For now the class only meets in the morning from 8 to 11 a.m., but there is hope that by next year afternoon classes will be available, Troyer said.
Having now spent several weeks in the class, Horein has found it fun as well as educational.
"When we tore the siding off it was pretty fun. It was pretty much like demolition," Horein said. "When you're rebuilding it just gets you away from everything -- it makes you think about the different angles and the different measurements."
By giving students like Horein a chance to practice this kind of work first hand, Staley believes The Crossing is giving students experiences that will benefit them long after they've graduated.
"By making education practical, it increases the chances for our students to become employable," Staley said.