For Scotty Gestring, 17, going to school requires a special set of school supplies. Along with 26 other high school students from Columbia and surrounding areas, Gestring and his classmates have been working since August to build a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house as part of the Construction Technology course offered by Columbia’s vocational high school, commonly known as the Career Center.
“My favorite part of the project was framing,” Gestring said. “I liked the manual labor, swinging the hammer and handling wood.”
Parents, friends and community members were invited to attend an open house held Sunday. The house, on Sixth Street, is expected to close Friday. Proceeds from the sale will help keep the program going.
The Career Center offers the course to juniors and seniors enrolled in surrounding high schools, and it has accepted adult applicants in previous years. Students are expected to attend daily three-hour sessions in which they work with drywall and roofing materials. Two other courses offered at the Career Center complete the wiring and landscaping aspects of the project.
“We’re trying to teach them skills, whether they want to continue with college or go into the work force,” said Bob Jewett, who has taught the course for the past 21 years.
Financed by the Columbia Community Development Corp., Jewett said houses built by Career Center students promote neighborhood improvement by increasing owner-occupancy in local homes. Students taking the course have built 17 homes in Columbia since 1996.
Gestring’s mother, Cathy Murphy, said she would like to see more career-related classes offered in local high schools.
“The program is just wonderful because it’s hands-on,” she said. “It’s more than just book-learning; the students get a lot more out of it.”
Murphy has also seen the tremendous effect that the course has had on her son over the past nine months.
“He wants to fix everything in the house. The class has turned my son into a perfectionist,” she said.
Developing manual skills isn’t the only learning objective in the course, Gestring said.
“We learned how to work with others and to be open to different learning strategies,” he said. “We learned a good deal of patience.”
Gestring said he plans to enroll in the course again during his senior year and work in the construction field after high school.
“I can’t think of doing anything else right now,” he said. “I just know I want to go into this field and learn as much as I can.”