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Cool Schools: Penn High School class building a home in the community

MISHAWAKA, Ind.-It’s another early morning on the job.

Not for your typical builders, but for 17 Penn High School students. It’s all part of the school’s Building and Trades class that’s been taking kids far beyond the classroom for the last 49 years.

Right now, 48 homes throughout Mishawaka, Elkhart and Osceola were built by them.

This year, they are building their 49th home in the Newberry Point Neighborhood in Osceola.

“The goal is kids come in here and learn how to build a house and then afterwards hopefully they stay in the field,” said Cyle Milewski, President of the Building and Trades Corporation.

“I have kids that have never used a hammer ever in their life and I have kids that have grown up with a hammer in their hand,” said Les Crooks, the class’s instructor for the last 19 years.

Crooks says sure, not everybody wants to be a contractor, but it gives kids a chance to learn how to handle a job. Some of his former students decided to take it on as a career.

“Most of these kids may not be going to a four-year college and they want to do something that gives them a great foundation or a great skill,” Crooks said.

The Building and Trades Corporation, made up of 10 industry members, oversees the project. The board also provides the materials and funding.

But, students are responsible for having their own tools and tool belts.

This year, four students from last year’s build came back.

“It’s one of the best classes I’ve taken whether you are going into construction or not,” said Austin Elkin, a senior at Penn.


“In the beginning, it’s a little confusing not knowing everybody, but towards the end of the year, we start joining together,” said Caleb Serwatka, a senior at Penn.

Monday through Friday mornings throughout the school year, the class will finish the soon-to-be 3 bedroom, 2 ½ bath and 2 car garage home.

Before the home is finished in June, the house is listed for sale by owner and usually is sold before completion. If it doesn’t get purchased before then, a realtor from the Building and Trades Corporation will list the home. All of the money goes back towards the corporation.


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