Building Skills, Building Community

San Jose, CA – They’ll be using hammers, nails and two-by-fours, but over the next three weeks, fifty students at Joseph George Middle School, an Alum Rock Union Elementary School District’s Visual and Performing Arts school, will be finishing a semester that’s been about more than building walls and roofs. They’re building a foundation for success with skills, know-how and compassion. These students are part of a first of its kind Citizen Schools Apprenticeship with Habitat for Humanity. Students in the after-school apprenticeship are working with volunteers from Citizen Schools to learn basic building, design and math skills like measuring and drawing to scale. They’re also working side by side with Habitat for Humanity craftsmen and volunteers to build four playhouses that will be donated to active military families.

These students couldn’t wait to get their hands on a hammer, but seeing this project from start to finish also gives them an opportunity to hone critical life skills including communication, collaboration, innovation, and problem solving. At the same time, they’re enthusiastic about giving back to their community. Eleven-year-old Justin Nguyen is most excited about the chance to “help children who might be sad because their parent is far away in the service.”

Maria Drake, executive director for Citizen School California, says the experience provides students with the tools they’ll need in high school, college and beyond. “We want to provide these students with a blueprint for success by building academic and 21st century skills; giving them access to community members and unique experiences; and making the connection between hard work, education and future success.”

The apprenticeship culminates in a WOW! event on December 8th and 10th, where the students will show off their finished products. The event gets its name because “WOW!” is typically the reaction from the community when they see what the students have accomplished. In this case, it’ll be four playhouses that will home to real fun. That’s what eleven-year-old Daniela Rivera is looking forward to. “I want to be a part of something that makes other children happy.”