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Like any teacher, just after the start of a new school year each September, building instructor Mark Enger sits down with his new class at the district's Renaissance Technical Center to outline the course work expected of them. But instead of pop quizzes or term papers, Enger talks about houses and, in particular, the one his class will build for Habitat for Humanity of Boise Valley.

He's done it for each of the last nine falls just as he - and his students - have celebrated each of the last nine springs of the house their hands and tools and skills have just finished. Except for the plumbing and electrical work, "the kids build the house from the ground up," Enger told Joe Estrella of The Idaho Statesman.

Like the 1,000 square-foot, 2-bedroom, one-bath house with attached garage the program's 33 students have just completed with Oscar and Lupe Guadalupe Garcia de Alba at 9064 Humanity Lane in Boise. It sits on a lot bought by Habitat using HUD funds from the City of Boise. Donated funds, labor and materials help make the price affordable for the family. And building it to Energy Star standards helps maintain that affordability. "They've told us," notes Enger, "that our homes are so tight we could heat them with a candle."

Originally from the state of Jalisco in Mexico and married since 2006, Oscar and Lupe first applied to Habitat in June 2008. They had to wait for over a year for a lot to build on. "Oscar wasn't worried, though," said Tom Lay, Habitat's executive director. "He says he's waited over 20 years for his own home. So one more year didn't matter."

They also had plenty to do while they were waiting. Habitat requires every family to contribute at least 500 hours of labor or "sweat equity" to the home they want to own. They've not only been "faithful volunteers" at Habitat's ReStore, said Lay, but if extra hands are needed at a worksite, "Oscar is there!"

"It's a very challenging demographic to create homeownership opportunities for," Lay told The Statesman. "But a family gets an opportunity to own a home and these kids get to know that they were a part of this."

And more. The collaboration between the Meridian schools and Habitat, as The Statesman observed, is "helping Enger's students launch careers, not just find jobs." Congressman Walt Minnick certainly agrees. "Nothing is simple anymore," he said following a recent tour of the building site. "We need to provide keys for our students emerging into the workforce."

Oscar, Lupe and their three-year-old daughter got their own set of keys at a move-in ceremony on May 15th. After so many years of dreaming, with hard work and lots of help they've seen it come true. And, yes, Mr. Enger and Mr. Lay already are talking about the how's and where's of home number 10.


Content Archived: December 2, 2013

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