- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 16, 2014

LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) - There’s thick dust in the air. Rubble is piled on the floor. Pipes hang at odd angles. But Johann Wilson, in a dust mask and hard hat, is having the time of his life. Even though he is only getting paid in pure joy.

“I love tearing stuff up,” said Wilson, a 17-year-old senior at McCaskey High School. “I get to kick things, demolish them. Because I know I can build it back up again.”

For the first time ever, McCaskey students learning the building trades as part of the Career & Technical small learning community are investing some sweat equity in their future and the future of their classmates.

With a unique combination of community partners, the students are getting hands-on lessons in carpentry, plumbing, electrical, roofing and drywall on a condemned house in the city which will be rehabbed, sold and the proceeds used to buy another house for another class of students next year.

Although the New Holland Avenue house has an ominous past, its renovation will certainly bring back its reputation as well as its structure.

“The idea to rehab a house and sell it, really came from the students,” said Lancaster Housing Opportunity Partnership executive director, Ray D’Agostino.

He said some of the students were working on a house on West Strawberry Street where the partnership is revamping houses to bring back the neighborhood.

“They kept asking if they could do the same thing - fix up a house and sell it,” D’Agostino said.

Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for and sometimes you get exactly what you want.

“I wanted to do something,” said Wisly Jaccinor, 16, was said he was bored sitting in his engineering class last year at McCaskey. “I wanted to work.”

He got exactly what he wanted and a little more when he switched to the building trades. He got a house on the list of the city’s blighted homes and is now one of the seven students tearing it down to the studs and starting fresh.

“I was afraid they wouldn’t like all the dirty work of tearing down,” said Career & Technical Coordinator Mary Lou Lebo. “It’s certainly not glamorous but they are into it hook, line and sinker.”

In fact, the demo has been future carpenter, Wilson’s, favorite part.

Jaccinor plans to put the experience on his resume one day when he becomes a general contractor. He’s taking pictures of the whole house - from start to finish so he can remember each step of the project.

One thing Frank Bell, 18, has learned is that he’s not afraid of heights. He has already been on the roof, inspecting it for needed repairs.

“I can do this house,” Bell said, even though he plans to become an auto mechanic. “I already know how to frame out a wall and I know a little bit about electrical and plumbing.”

The house was originally owned by Janice Eileen Harmes who went to live and care for her elderly mother, Janet Bastendorf. When Bastendorf died, last January, police charged her daughter with neglect of a care-dependent person.

Harmes went to jail the following month and her house not only fell into disrepair, but it also went into foreclosure.

Harmes had borrowed money from LHOP for the down payment on the home.

With the students wanting to rehab a house, partnership officials seized an opportunity in the form of an “Aha” grant from the Lancaster Community Foundation to buy the house off the city’s blighted homes list for $19,000.

Added to that, the Building Industry Association supplied each student with a new tool belt and fresh tools and a McCaskey alum anonymously donated insulated coveralls for the boys to wear.

And Tracy Seiger of Life Changes Realty is going to market and sell the house at a reduced rate.

“This is not just about building a house,” said D’Agostino. “This is about building relationships in the community.”





Information from: LNP, https://lancasteronline.com

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