AAPS homebuilding students win awards for carpentry, team works at state competition

Students endure COVID-related chain supply issues & shortages, says program head, who praises their flexibility, patience and skills

By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor

The Ann Arbor Student Building Industry Program earned additional accolades over the weekend as students excelled at the SkillsUSA State Leadership and Skills Conference in Grand Rapids.

In the carpentry competition, Huron High School students Adam Schork and Emma Sutton placed second and third, respectively.

Placing first in the Team Works category was the team of Matias Gonzalez (Pioneer), Jack “JD” Dowds (Skyline), Nick Finamore (Huron) and Rachel Gowel (Huron).

The homebuilding program helps students learn many skills and gain valuable experience while building a new home each year.

And this year has offered one learning opportunity after another as students faced COVID-related challenges.

“More than I can ever remember these kids have had to dig deep and climb a steep hill,” said Mark Valchine II, Home Building instructor.  “The Covid shut down has really affected them in a negative way.  These poor kids held back from fully engaging in the program for months out of fear that it would be taken from them again.  They continue to overcome every obstacle placed in front of them, and there have been many.  From transportation issues to supply chain issues we overcame it.  Our Roof trusses were delayed over a month, windows did not arrive on the site until late February 2 months late. 

The program began in 1970 with 26 students from Pioneer and Huron building a home on Yellowstone Drive—which was sold before it was even completed. Assisting them were local journeymen and craftsmen under the supervision of builder Henry Landau. 

Today, Team 52’s 27 students from Huron, Pioneer, Skyline, and Community high schools are building a 3400-square-foot, five-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom house at 6522 Wisteria Trace in Ann Arbor.  The house is the largest student-built home in one school year in the country.  It’s expected to hit the open market in May.

“This team just continued to stay flexible and meet the goals they have set to finish their home,” said Valchine.  “Also this team has really taken our program an each others health to heart.”

He said they’ve all been careful about COVID, and they have been no cases of it on site to date.

Every homebuilding student that qualified to compete at the state level placed, said Valchine, noting that this is the first time that goal was achieved. The Team Works Team earned the right to represent Michigan at the national conference held in Atlanta, Georgia in late June.

“To my knowledge this is the first time ever a female competitor has placed in the carpentry competition,” said Valchine. “Emma has truly made her mark. 

Valchine said the program is in need of the community’s support. 

“We are on our last three building sites and are currently looking for land to purchase and develop or building sites,” he said. “In three years we will not have a site to build on to continue this great opportunity for our students.”

To help, contact Valchine at valchinem@aaps.k12.mi.us or realtor Pat Durston at 734-260-9247.

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