The upcoming school year for the Leesburg High School Construction Academy promises to be exciting, challenging and very rewarding as the students are partnering with Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter to build a home for a local family. The home will be constructed at 107 North 12th Street in Leesburg, which is just off Main Street and close to First Baptist Church of Leesburg. Although the owners of the home have not been determined by Habitat, the approval process should be completed by the group in early fall.
“Habitat for Humanity is a hand up, not a handout,” said Kent Adcock, president and CEO of Habitat, adding that the group has a qualification process that requires “sweat equity” homeownership for each project.
The Construction Academy’s Habitat project is a community project that is truly a collaborative effort.
The revamped Construction Academy was one of the top priorities of incoming Lake County Schools Superintendent Diane Kornegay, who mustered the construction industry to support an $866,000 grant from the state of Florida. Through the efforts of Kornegay and the Lake County School Board, LHS received the grant last summer. Lynnea Weissman, grant project manager for Career and College Readiness, was tasked by Lake County Schools to develop the construction program and institute Kornegay’s vision.
A great deal of the success of the project is owed to State Rep. Jennifer Sullivan and State Sen. Dennis Baxley, who championed the grant in the Florida Legislature.
Weissman assembled an advisory board of local leaders who committed to the program’s success by meeting monthly to help develop a career pathway for students in the construction trades. The board brought real world construction expertise to the academy and helps with mentorships, training, demonstrations and the development of soft skills needed for employment. The board also assisted in setting up the first Academy of Construction Technologies (ACT), which allows member construction companies to hire students for summer paid internships. Students in the LHS Construction Academy now have the opportunity to work in real construction jobs at very attractive pay rates. Plus, these students are seeing firsthand the lucrative jobs offered in the building trades.
The Habitat project originated in the advisory board, and from there community partners were brought together to make it a reality. The first project commitment came from Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter, who agreed through Danielle Stroud, senior director of development, to oversee the overall project. Next, the project needed an affordable vacant lot close to the school. Led by Mayor John Christian, the Leesburg City Commission voted to donate a city-owned lot to the project. The lot’s proximity to Leesburg High School in the heart of the city of Leesburg makes it a perfect spot for the students to learn as well as community partners to participate.
Each Habitat home has a corporate sponsor to help defray costs, and RoMac Building Supply and its team agreed to sponsor this home. Corporate sponsorships are essential to Habitat in keeping costs down to the new homeowner. RoMac Building Supply is a yearly sponsor of homes for Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter, and the business has been located in downtown Leesburg since 1945.
AgeWave Solutions Inc., one of the premier architectural and design companies in Central Florida, in consultation with Habitat for Humanity, designed the construction plans and documents for the home. The plans incorporate a unique Florida-Leesburg style, which fits and enhances the neighborhood. Randy Thompson, president and CEO of AgeWave Solutions, has been a longtime supporter of Habitat, and the company has invested a lot of time and effort in the home’s design to ensure it will serve its new owners and the community for a lifetime.
Everything is in place for this wonderful project to start, and now comes the best part: the build. Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter and the Leesburg High School Construction Academy advisory board are in the process of selecting subcontractors and volunteers who would like to work on the project, as well as mentor these students. Plus, community groups and businesses that would like to help with landscaping, décor and household furnishings are welcome to participate. A limited number of opportunities to volunteer and participate on the project are available. Interested parties should contact Stroud at 352-483-0434 or Weissman at 352-253-6770.
The ground-breaking ceremony for this project will be on at 9 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 26, and the community is welcome to attend. A special presentation for local business leaders involved with this project will be on Thursday, Sept. 26, during the Leesburg Area Chamber of Commerce sunrise breakfast at 7 a.m. For information about the breakfast, call 352-787-2131.
This project is a great opportunity for the students to learn and the community to come together for a great cause. Please join us for the ground breaking in August.
Don Magruder is the CEO of RoMac Building Supply. He is also the host of the Around the House TV show on LSTV and LakeSumterTV.com at 1 and 6:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; and at 7 a.m., Noon and 6 p.m. Saturday.