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Great Falls students break ground on 45th 'High School House'

Great Falls students break ground on 45th 'High School House'
Posted at 10:08 AM, Sep 14, 2022

GREAT FALLS — Students from Great Falls High School, CMR High School, and Paris Gibson Education Center came together to break ground on the 45th "High School House," which will be located on 512 6th Avenue South.

In the next eight months, these 35 students will take on the Montana weather and learn valuable skills as they construct a home from the ground up.

The project is a partnership between Great Falls Public Schools and NeighborWorks Great Falls.

The High School House is one NeighborWorks most well-known projects. NWGF supplies the lot, arranges subcontractors, and finances the construction while also working with potential homebuyers to get them ready for homeownership. High School House buyers must be first time homeowners, which can result in first-generation homeownership. In return, students gain real-world knowledge in an out of classroom setting while making a positive impact in their community.

The program has been around since 1998, and NeighborWorks alongside Great Falls Public Schools say they hope to expand upon it.

NeighborWorks Great Falls director Sherrie Arey said, "We've been able to have 45 homes since 1998. We used to have two homes each year, one for each high school. We've pulled back from that in the last few years, but we definitely want to gear up and do two more homes again, one for each school."

Instructor Pete Pace has been a part of the program for 14 years. He noted that it expands beyond just helping the Great Falls Community. It also provides opportunities for youth, getting them ready for skilled trades.

Pete Pace

Pace said, "Not only have we improved neighborhoods and provided housing for the community of Great Falls, but we've also filled the need for skilled carpenters, construction workers, and we want to continue doing that. We want to strengthen this program and continue doing it."

Members of CMR 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 hands on, and it's better than sitting in a chair in a classroom, listening to a teacher talk. You come here and actually do stuff, use equipment and use power tools. It's a fun experience. You get to know more people, and it's good in the future."

Nick Bodge

Great Falls High School senior A.J. Mese said he heard about the program for a while. He added that he heard good things about Instructor Pace, and that influenced his decision to be a part of this year's High School House.

"I wanted to be a part of it because I thought it'd be fun," Mese said. "It's interesting. I'm pretty decent at it. Pace is a good teacher. I've heard things about my other teachers about him."

Pace noted that getting these students involved is essential in the long run, noting that the need for skilled trade workers keeps growing, and there is no better program than The High School House to get these kids involved and experienced.

"This program is unique," Pace said. "We build a house from start to finish. The skills these students gain really propel them into the work force. 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 pre-requisite classes. They started in Junior High with shop classes, learning about safety, learning about the industry standards. They take a couple of other classes in their high school programs that are prerequisites to get in to here. We really do a great job of preparing these students to step right into the industry to fill these needs that construction companies need throughout the state."

The new High School House is expected to be completed in May 2023.