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Cleveland teens rehab abandoned homes (Video)



This summer, a group of CMSD high school students are trading in their backpacks and textbooks for tool belts and hard hats.

Sixteen teens from the Boys & Girls Clubs at East Tech High School and John Adams High School started work this month on a 10-week project called Building Great Futures. The students are rehabilitating two dilapidated homes in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood as part of an innovative program designed to train youths in the construction trades and provide hands-on experience during a paid, full-time job.

“I’m excited to learn something new and potentially work in this career as a construction worker or engineer,” said Reshaun Brown, a senior at John Adams.

Helping students gain skills for careers is at the heart of Building Great Futures, which is also sponsored by Greater Cleveland Habitat For Humanity, Youth Opportunities Unlimited and Cuyahoga County. An anonymous donor paid for all the materials needed to rehabilitate the houses and provided financial support for the Habitat staff.

The students have been preparing for the hands-on work since April, learning from construction professionals at Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. Each of them earned an Occupational Safety and Health Administration certification and built a toolbox.

They also spent time with Tory Coats, director of career readiness at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland, working on job and life skills. Coats helped students set up bank accounts and will continue to meet with the students every Monday morning for lessons on leadership development, teamwork, time management and other skills for career success.

The hope is that the students will take what they learn in these sessions and immediately put it to practice on the job site.

“Not only will they get the information in the classroom sessions, but the hands-on, experiential learning opportunities will go a long way for these guys,” Coats said.

That hands-on work began on day one, right after the students were outfitted with fully stocked tool belts and safety boots donated by Home Depot. Supervisors from Habitat and the Boys & Girls Clubs split up the students into two groups and they got to work pulling out carpet, filling cracks in the walls and tearing down drywall.

East Tech Boys & Girls Club Director Richard Starr, a Cleveland native and CMSD graduate, said the jobs have the added benefit of keeping teens safe during the summer months in Cleveland.

“Studies have shown that when kids are not doing something productive or don’t have something to occupy their time, they’re more likely to get into violence or negative behavior,” Starr said.

Building Great Futures aims to be much more than a summer jobs for teens; it’s also about revitalizing an impoverished neighborhood and providing affordable housing for families. The two houses the students are working on are among eight that Habitat for Humanity will rehabilitate in the neighborhood this year. Habitat also will assist up to 100 residents with exterior home improvements.

One of the homes the teens are renovating will eventually be occupied by a student on the crew. Knowing that the vacant houses will become homes -- and symbols of hope -- for Cleveland families like that of his co-worker adds a layer of meaning to the work for East Tech senior Greg Elma.

“It feels good and it gives you extra motivation to do better if you know someone is actually going to live there,” Elma said.

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