‘It’s teaching them real life skills’: Eastern Kentucky students build tiny houses through grant program

Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 7:43 PM EDT
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FLOYD COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT) - Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC) is continuing its ‘Building it Forward’ project, which gives $15,000 grants to technology centers across the region.

The grant is used to build a tiny house from scratch.

“It gets the kids into a trade with their hands,” said Floyd County Area Technology Center Carpentry Instructor, Kevin Woods.

Floyd County Area Technology Center has been involved with the program since 2016. This is the fourth house they have built.

“The skills, the hands-on skills for anybody is second to none. Because sitting in a classroom, listening to a teacher speak, is different than coming out here and actually implementing what you’re learning in the classroom,” said Woods.

In August, the students were given $15,000 and had to buy a metal trailer and materials for their house. Then they had to create a floor plan.

“We go through the inception phase and planning phase so we’ll go through budgeting,” said Woods. “I’ll have a spreadsheet up there and say, ‘look, we’ve got $3,900 in a trailer we gotta spend.’ That comes right off the top, so we only got like 11 grand left for building materials.”

Nearly every program at the school is involved with the build from carpentry to electrical, welding and HVAC.

“Even if they don’t go into this field, and they grow up and be family men and stuff like that, they can do repairs on their own home and do their own takeoffs and stuff like that. They can be independent and not rely on anybody else. So those skills are monumental not only in the school but in real-life situations,” said Woods.

For student Devin Sword, this is the second tiny house he has helped build. He says it is preparing him for life after high school.

“I wanted to do this because I really wanted to turn carpentry into my career one day. I’ve done it once last year and fell in love with the job and just decided to make it a career,” said Sword. “It allows me to build a house from the ground up. It allows me to use tools I never knew how to use before. It just helps me mainly throughout life.”

For Jerimiah Obrian, this is the first home he has worked on. He says he has learned what it would be like working at a real construction site.

“A ton of safety and learning how to use almost all of the construction equipment,” said Obrian. “I can go around telling people that I’m still in high school and I’ve basically helped build a house.”

Principal Rady Martin said the school prepares students to leave high school and go directly into the workforce and be able to earn a living for themselves.

“That’s what we want. We want kids to leave here and become productive members of society,” said Martin.

The tiny house will be put up for auction in June. Once the auction is complete, each school will have a base $15,000 and 80% of the dollar amount above the final auction bid to build a new house in the next school year.

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