WRCC students collaborate with Habitat for Humanity on project


BRATTLEBORO -- Students in Bob Simeon’s Construction Building & Framing program at the Windham Regional Career Center partnered recently with the Brattleboro Area Habitat for Humanity. Simeon and his students took on the task of building and installing the kitchen cabinets for a house on Quarry Road in West Dummerston.

Simeon said that this was a job "from the ground up," starting out with rough sawn lumber. Students milled, planed and joined lumber for the face frames and doors, using solid pine for the door panels. He added that the cabinets were built in place rather than in the Career Center’s wood shop since both the floor and walls of this house weren’t level and required lots of ongoing measurement during construction.

Career Center students involved in the project were Zach Frost, Jonathan Garland, Bryse Gilbeau, Mark Rochefort and Trevor Rose, all from Brattleboro; Hillary Renaud from Vernon; and Ben Wood from Guilford.

Students found it to be a terrific experience in terms of skill development. Ben Wood stated, "It was trial and error; nothing was straight or level in that house. We had to be persistent because finish work has to be perfect."

There was also a personal benefit. Hillary Renaud shared, "It’s very nice to know I had a part in creating the cabinet doors, and that the hard work I put into this project has helped make the house look its best for its new owners."

And Zach Frost added, "It feels great to know in five years, when I drive by that house, that I had a hand in building someone a home."

The house itself has had an interesting history. The frame of the dwelling is from a 1940s house donated to Habitat by Entergy Vermont Yankee. It was initially moved to Habitat’s factory at the old Book Press where it was insulated and reconstructed. It was then moved to Quarry Road onto land donated by the Nature Conservancy, where the final construction phase took place.

Habitat for Humanity is an international organization whose mission is to provide affordable, ownership homes to families in need. Volunteers work together with families in the construction and remodeling of these homes.

Internationally, since Habitat’s inception in 1976, its self-help model has resulted in new, repaired or rehabbed housing for more than three million people. This is Brattleboro Area Habitat for Humanity’s eighth house project.

Michael Burnett is the interim director of the Windham Regional Career Center and also a board member of the Brattleboro Area Habitat for Humanity. He was influential in forming this collaboration and he recognizes the benefits on a number of levels.

"Our students were able to use the skills they’ve been learning in class as a way to help others within their community. This ties in nicely with the Career Center’s emphasis on character development and serves to promote the 21st century skills our students will need as they prepare to enter today’s work force."

Recognizing the need for good math skills and the advantages of "hands-on" learning, the Career Center’s construction program is planning a new introductory course next year that will be co-taught by Simeon and Laura Reed, the Career Center’s math instructor. It will provide an opportunity for students to learn and earn credit in high school geometry while working within a construction-based learning environment and working on a number of building projects. Geometry instruction will be enhanced by immediately applying mathematical concepts to real world, hands-on applications.

The Windham Regional Career Center provides technical and career training to students from the following high schools: Brattleboro, Leland * Gray, Twin Valley, Bellows Falls, Hinsdale NH, as well as the Austine School.


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