Great Falls students open 45th High School House
GREAT FALLS — Students from Great Falls High School, CMR High School and Paris Gibson Education Center came together to open the 45th High School House, which will be located at 512 6th Avenue South.
Over the next eight months, these 35 students will brave the Montana climate and learn valuable skills as they build a home from scratch.
The project is a partnership between Great Falls Public Schools and NeighborWorks Great Falls.
The High School House is one of NeighborWorks’ best-known projects. NWGF provides the land, arranges contractors and finances the construction while working with potential buyers to prepare them for home ownership. High School House buyers must be first-time homeowners, which may lead to first-generation homeownership. In return, students gain real-world knowledge in an out-of-class setting while having a positive impact on their community.
The program has been around since 1998, and NeighborWorks alongside Great Falls Public Schools say they hope to expand it.
NeighborWorks Great Falls Director Sherrie Arey said, “We’ve been able to have 45 houses since 1998. We used to have two houses each year, one for each high school. We’ve backed out of that for the past few years, but we really want to prepare and redo two more houses, one for each school.”
Instructor Pete Pace has been with the program for 14 years. He noted that it goes beyond just helping the Great Falls community. It also provides opportunities for young people by preparing them for skilled trades.
Pace said, “Not only have we improved neighborhoods and provided housing for the community of Great Falls, but we’ve also met the need for skilled carpenters, construction workers, and we want to continue to do that. We want to strengthen this program and continue to do so.”
Members of RMC and Great Falls High School said the High School House program provides them with unique learning experiences that you can’t always find in the classroom.
CMR High School Senior Nick Bodge said, “It’s a fun experience. It’s something new to do, it’s more practical, and it’s better than sitting in a chair in a classroom, listening to a teacher talk. You come here and you actually do things, operate equipment and use power tools. It’s a fun experience. You get to know more people, and it’s is good for the future.
Great Falls High School senior AJ Mese said he had heard about the program for some time. He added that he had heard good things about Instructor Pace and that influenced his decision to be part of this year’s High School House.
“I wanted to be a part of it because I thought it would be fun,” Mese said. “It’s interesting. I’m pretty good at it. Pace is a good teacher. I’ve heard things from my other teachers about him.”
Pace noted that engaging these long-term students is essential, noting that the need for skilled workers continues to grow and that there is no better program than The High School House to engage and experience these children.
“This program is unique,” Pace said. “We’re building a house from start to finish. The skills these students learn really propel them into the job market. They really help this community, this state, and it prepares them for skilled trades in the construction industry. .”
He added, “These students have taken a lot of prerequisite courses. They started in middle school with shop classes, learning about safety, learning about industry standards. They take a few other courses in their high school that are prerequisites to get in. We really do a great job of preparing these students to go straight into the industry to meet the needs that construction companies need across the state.
The new High School House is expected to be completed in May 2023.