Students revel in their successes and support of the community
by Anika Pepper
A second house being constructed in the valley by local high school students is almost finished.
The Crested Butte Community School SOAR (Student Organization Achieving Results for Community) program is near completion on its second residential building project. The nearly 1,200-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom home is on Teocalli Avenue in Crested Butte South and is a testament to the quality and success the program has seen since its inception in 2015.
CBCS teacher Todd Wasinger and High Mountain Concept owner John Stock are the adults in charge of this program, but it is safe to say the students involved are the brains and brawn behind the achievement.
Students involved in the program take classes at the community school in architecture and building design with Wasinger and other CBCS teachers before joining Stock in the field for a hands-on experience. While there are a few academic prerequisites to joining the program, Wasinger notes the personal drive of the student can make or break whether they join SOAR.
“More important than the classes they are taking is whether or not they have the maturity and drive to want to take on this project,” says Wasinger.
There are currently 50 high school students involved in SOAR, with students participating in both the design and the building processes. “Students overlap on both sides,” says Wasinger. “It’s nice to have the connection between the two processes.”
Students are expected to take classes such as civil engineering and fundamentals of construction during their time in the program, but the real passion comes out when students take a hands-on approach to learning at the construction site. “Students were involved in the foundation work,” says Stock, “being there for the concrete pour. They loved it. They were really excited about it.”
Most educators dream of applying their learning to a real-life project. It’s clear that Wasinger is proud beyond measure of the work the SOAR students are doing. “It is overwhelming how much there is to teach,” he says, “but it’s worth it for how much they get out of it and what these projects can do for our community.
“While there are leadership opportunities for kids who are involved in SOAR over a long period,” continues Wasinger, “what we have seen is that kids are being hired to work in the field professionally after they have hands-on experience with these projects.”
Equally impressive as these buildings’ being designed and built by students in the Crested Butte community is that the SOAR program is extremely close to becoming self-sustainable. While the program has relied heavily on the donations and generosity of others to get up and running, with the sale of the Teocalli property scheduled for the end of the year the profit should bring in enough revenue to fund the next phase of the project, the other half of the duplex on Teocalli.
Stock and Wasinger say the goal is to have SOAR gain self-sustainability by the end of 2019. “We would take the sale of the property,” says Stock, “and create an endowment that goes right back into the SOAR program. Any extra money would go back into the school.”
The Teocalli duplex is expected to be listed this winter by Jesse Ebner of Signature Properties. Ebner is overseeing the sale of the duplex pro-bono and, like many other people involved in the project, sees how beneficial SOAR is to the Crested Butte community.
“We all want to provide a chance for the kids to learn and expand their knowledge of home building that will lead to so many open doors for them in the future,” says Ebner. “What an amazing opportunity these kids have and I feel very lucky to be able to be a part of it.”
Ebner is not the only Crested Butte community member who is lending their professional knowledge about housing and construction to the SOAR students. Wasinger explains how beneficial it has been for students to learn from the pros. “The reason that this project works so well is because of the professional collaboration. [Field professionals] are coming to the classroom and to the jobsite and are teaching the students. It improves their education.”
Looking toward the future, Wasinger and Stock make it clear that this program’s success ensures it is not going anywhere. Construction on the third SOAR project, the other half of the duplex on Teocalli Avenue, is scheduled to begin in June 2019 and students are already deep into the design process this semester. Stock even notes that the fourth SOAR project is at the forefront of their minds. “We are looking for property in the valley right now for the project after Crested Butte South,” says Stock. “If we can, it would be nice to reach out into low-cost housing, [to] see if we can somehow provide some housing for the community.”
In the persistent search for affordable housing in the Gunnison Valley, SOAR could be one of the pieces in that puzzle. “We have an interest in community housing,” says Wasinger. “It would be great if this program builds houses for people who are essential for the community to sustain the community.”