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  • Writer's pictureDon Magruder

Something to Make You Smile

For most people, 2020 has been a year of heartache, fear, and anxiety with little to smile about. We are all exhausted from the COVID-19 pandemic, the bitterness from the presidential election, and a hurricane season that never wanted to end.

Despite all the turmoil through the fall, a group of local young people have been working hard doing good work for their community while preparing themselves for a future with a respectable job in the construction industry. Since September, each week students from The Villages Charter High School Construction Management Academy and the Leesburg High School Construction Academy have been working on jobsites building homes for Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter. These students are doing so while trying to combine virtual learning, wearing a mask, and following COVID-19 pandemic guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The students in The Villages Charter High School Construction Management Academy are working in two shifts on their project on Ann Street in Lady Lake. Under the direction of their instructor Bruce Haberle and Habitat for Humanity Project Manager Barry Martin these students have constructed a home with little help. The walls and roof are up, and it is dried in. The project is being done with the highest of craftmanship and the jobsite is neat and clean. However, the students are what make this project so special. Polite, hard workers who want to make a difference in the life of this homeowner. This something to smile about.

On Grove Street in Leesburg, the Leesburg High School Construction Academy students are building their Habitat for Humanity house on a beautiful corner lot just one block from the water. This home is being constructed with the highest of quality and the members of the “Dream Team” are working hard to understand every aspect of construction. Jobsite mentors have been instrumental in providing real world direction and all are motivated by the homeowner who has worked side by side with the students. Instructor Bryan Russ has a difficult time in selecting Dream Team members, because so many students want to be involved in the Construction Academy at Leesburg High School. This is something to smile about.

There is more great news! South Lake High School will start its Habitat for Humanity house in January. This is another opportunity to not only build a house for a well-deserving family, but also build character in the young men and women on the jobsite.

These projects did not just happen. It took the vision of Danielle Stroud, Senior Director of Programs and Partnerships of Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter, Lynnea Weissman, Grant Project Manager for the Lake County School District, and Dr. Randy McDaniel, Director of Education for The Villages Charter School. This year, The Villages Charter High School Construction Management Academy is constructing their third home for Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter, and the Leesburg High School Construction Academy is constructing their second home. By year end, including the new South Lake High School project, there will be six Habitat for Humanity homes constructed in large part by our local high school students. This is something to smile about!

If you would like something to smile about, get involved with Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter and these construction academies. Help the students furnish and dress up their projects. One thing I promise you, if you meet these wonderful students on the jobsite, you will smile. Support construction education and let us build projects and people!

Don Magruder is the CEO of RoMac Building Supply and host of Around the House, which can be seen at

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