- Associated Press - Sunday, October 8, 2017

KENNEWICK, Wash. (AP) - The bright yellow home on South Irby Street in Kennewick is a different kind of laboratory.

Instead of beakers, burners and chemical formulas, 50 students from Tri-Tech Skills Center used paint brushes, shovels and elbow grease as they tested themselves Wednesday at Doug and Loree Swartz’s home.

For Ricardo Herrera, who travels from Prosser to attend classes at Tri-Tech, the work not only gives him a chance to use skills he learns in class, it allows him to give back to the community.

“They’re just going out and showing the community that young people can make an impact on the community,” he said.

The Swartz home had lost sections of paint, said Jonathan Perez, a 17-year-old Tri-Tech construction trades student who wants to be an electrician.

Perez and the other students stripped the paint from the outside of the house, applied primer and put a new coat on. They also fixed the chimney and did landscaping work.

Doug Swartz, who turned 80 recently, and Loree Swartz, who catching up to her husband, bought the house more than 40 years ago. They haven’t been able to get outside to get the home painted for at least the past six years.

“We’re beyond climbing ladders,” Loree Swartz said. “We’re more than happy with the work.”

The teens went above and beyond for the elderly couple, said Crystal Carter, the executive director for Rebuilding Mid-Columbia. The nonprofit connects seniors, veterans or people with disabilities with companies or groups like the construction trades class to get them to do the work.

Carter pointed to a section of the back lawn where the students noted a dip that might be hard for Doug Swartz to push a lawn mower over.

The students cut back the sod and filled it in, she said. They were unhappy with the work though after the dirt underneath settled, so they repeated the process to get it right.

She also highlighted some concrete flag stones next to the house.

“They were worried that it would be a tripping hazard for the family,” Carter said. “So the kids actually pulled all of this out, leveled off the dirt and put them back in.”

The students worked for more than 720 hours on the home, but the giving will continue.

As payment for the project, Rebuilding Mid-Columbia asks its recipients to volunteer - within their physical capability, Carter said.

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