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Coming home: Geometry in Construction students build house for disabled veteran

Brendan O'Brien / Alyssa Tornabene, Editor-in-Chief / Associate Editor-in-Chief

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Every year, thousands of veterans return home from serving our country, facing severe physical and psychological challenges. This often makes difficult to integrate back into everyday life. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, it is estimated that on any given night in the United States, 200,000 veterans are homeless, and 400,000 veterans will experience homelessness throughout the course of a year.

In order to help address this issue, A Soldier’s Journey Home, a non-profit organization, gathers a group of sponsors and volunteers to help build a home for a veteran each year. This year, Rolling Meadows and other District 214 schools have joined the effort to help a recently retired veteran, Cody Evans.

“Cody was selected because so many veterans that we have are injured and come home,” Wietrzak said. “Right now, he doesn’t have what he needs to be successful. This will benefit him for the rest of his life. He will move into this house and not owe anything on it. This will be completely at no cost to him, so this will help him and his family.”

Over the course of the year, students at RMHS and Buffalo Grove High School (BGHS) have worked on making blueprints for constructing part of the house, which will be assembled in Speedwell, Tenn. by a group of 60-100 volunteers next month. Last week, the students began constructing the walls, and the goal is to have all the walls completed by May 6.

The project is being incorporated into a first-year program offered at RMHS and BGHS called Geometry in Construction. This is a double-block class where students can earn a geometry credit while having hands-on experience with woodshop and construction. The course was modeled after a similar program at a school in Colorado, which built a house for Habitat for Humanity.

“It’s a really cool experience… The point is to incorporate [both] building skills and math skills,” Geometry in Construction teacher Andrew Riege said. “We want to do something that we’re not just going to take apart when we’re done with it [but instead] use the lumber for something else. This is actually using the skills and…math that we’re learning to help someone who served our country, which is pretty cool.”

Being able to incorporate an opportunity to help someone in need in the curriculum of this course has allowed students to develop unification by working towards a meaningful common goal.

“It’s been very successful in that people have learned to donate [their time] to be part of a bigger picture, to volunteer on someone’s behalf who gave so much for us and to understand and learn about careers along the way,” David Wietrzak, CTE and Physical Education Division Head, said. “This isn’t just about hammering nails and building wood. This is about creating a life, or a home, that will benefit someone for the rest of their lives.”

Working on the project has also been beneficial to students, who have been able to gain first-hand experience working with a team in a business-like setting while giving back to someone who has served our country as well.

“[I learned that] it’s really stressful to be a manager, because you have to make sure everything is right, the materials are right, and everything is there for everybody,” sophomore Joel Rodriguez said. “You learn how to use your hands on materials, you learn how to work with a team, you learn how to help. We’re helping a soldier that can’t walk, so helping [him] out [is the greatest benefit].”

Financially, the project is expected to cost about $120,000. The majority of the project has been funded by grants, including two from Home Depot, which helped pay for the majority of the materials for the house. However, according to Wietrzak, financial donations can still be made to the organization’s website, www.asoldiersjourneyhome.org.

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The online edition of the award-winning student newspaper at Rolling Meadows High School
Coming home: Geometry in Construction students build house for disabled veteran