Local students mark 3 years of building houses for families in need

Apr. 19—WURTLAND — Wurtland Middle School students partnered with Habitat for Humanity on Friday, building two "house skeletons" for families in need.

Hammering nails, lining up wood and lifting were some of the responsibilities observed outside the school. Throughout the day, students completed two house outlines this year, marking four houses built by Wurtland students.

Brandi Litteral, Wurtland Middle Principal, said it is the only middle school in the United States to participate in a "wall-build" with Habitat.

"Last year our kids worked so fast that this year we said, 'send us two houses,' and they knocked it out. ... They're swinging hammers, they're hitting the nails and this is their best day of the year. They love this day and will not miss it," she said.

"After COVID we came back to school and decided to add some career electives to our curriculum," she added. "One of the classes we added was an industrial arts shop class. Those kids build all kinds of stuff and we thought it would be natural for them to collaborate with Habitat for Humanity."

Brooklyn Campbell, sixth-grader at Wurtland Middle, was ecstatic about being able to take part in the "wall-build."

"At first it was like scary because you don't know what you are gonna do if you've never done it, but once you start doing it, it gets easier and easier and just goes by really fast," she said.

Being exposed at a young age can introduce potential careers and ideas students lack information about, Litteral said.

"If they had a little bit of experience building walls, we hope some will think I want to go to that carpentry pathway," she said.

Murijah Bullock, a sixth-grader, was happy to take part in piecing together the outline of a house and said helping people brings light into her heart.

"It was really fun," Bullock said. "I have been waiting a very long time because I get to help people that need homes."

"I feel good and happy," she said, explaining her feelings toward giving back to the community.

David Michael, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity, said a mission of partnership is to give students a chance to learn about trades at a younger age.

"Not every child is going to go on to college," Michael said. "There is a tremendous demand, not just in the tri-state area, but across the country. While this isn't a full-blown carpentry course, this is an exposure of these kids they would never have the opportunity to do anywhere else."

There is a tremendous need in Boyd and Greenup counties, in particular, Michael said.

"I signed in on a webinar yesterday and in Greenup County 20% of renters are paying greater than 50% of their monthly take-home pay just to put a roof over their head and in Boyd County, it's 19%," he said.

"That's a lot," he added.

Michael appreciated the school system for partnering and said he looks forward to it each year with hopes of more schools following suit.

"We all look forward to this project every year," he said. "It's just the energy you get from working with the kids. It's amazing to be part of it because they are helping us provide the bones for not just one, but two house buildings."

Students sent farewell to the walls with "Wurtland love" by signing their names.

(606) 326-2657 — ajohnson@dailyindependent.com