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Murray Journal

Murray High student-built home teaches ins and outs of trade, house to be sold this spring

Sep 04, 2022 10:39AM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

After a few months break, the sounds of humming saws and beating hammers returned to the Murray High’s project house, located on Bullion Street one block north of Viewmont Elementary.

Murray High construction management students are beginning where the spring class left off, having passed the sheeting and shear inspection. With the exterior mostly done, Murray High School skilled and technology education teacher Quinn Drury said this school year will focus more on the interior work.

“We'll start with electrical, plumbing, mechanical,” he said. “Then, we will do the insulation, sheetrock, paint, finish trim, flooring cabinets—and all the exterior concrete.”

Drury said that the experience students gain by building a house translates to many different career and college opportunities for students.

He estimated that 75% of his senior class last spring “will have a full tuition scholarship.”

His graduates typically enroll in programs at Salt Lake Community College, Utah Valley University, Weber State University, Brigham Young University and Southern Utah University.

Some students graduate and go straight to work.

“In the field, there are good career opportunities and there still is high demand. I get called or get an email every day by people in our community asking if I have students who want to work,” he said. “I always instruct the kids that they want to get as much education and as much experience so it will take you right to the top of the field.”

That education begins with students enrolling in Woodworking I and II beforehand.

“When they do that, they can get up to 18 hours concurrent enrollment at SLCC (Salt Lake Community College) toward their construction management degree,” he said.

Those basic carpentry skills gained from classes translate into measuring, cutting and other mathematics that go into constructing a house, Drury said.

“It’s all intertwined. The projects we do are small projects in those classes, but this (home) is nothing more than a whole bunch of small projects,” he said about the current 2,800-square-foot two-story home with a finished basement that has three bedrooms, two and one-half bathrooms and a three-car garage.

After the house is completed, it will be put up for sale. Those funds will go back into the program to fund supplies and the building lot for the next house students will learn how to build.

The routine is a familiar as Drury has guided students the past 24 years to build 12 houses.

Recent Murray High graduate Gregory Cordova said he chose the program because he enjoys “working with my hands.”

“It makes me happy, and it gives us a reason to get out of the building, get out in the sun for a little bit and build something,” he said.

Having taken some business classes, one day Cordova hopes to own his own construction business.

“It’s my eventual goal, but it will take some time,” he said, adding that since he has taken the Murray High classes, he has been able to become the “handyman at home” applying his knowledge to help his family renovate a bedroom.

Cordova also helped with the finishing work on another Murray High house, a 4,900-square-foot, three-bedroom, two and one-half bath, four-car garage home close to Wheeler Farm that sold for almost $975,000 last year.

His classmate Alejandro Tolayo is returning this year to help finish the home on Bullion Street.

“This is pretty much what I want to do when I grow up,” he said. “I took woodworking classes ever since seventh grade. There's so much opportunity, learning from and being here with Drury and competing in SkillsUSA. It’s already given me opportunities for scholarships. Hopefully, one day I'll be able to have my own business and be able to build homes.”

Tolayo, who prefers to work with wood and has made a table and nightstand for his family, said that this house project has given him a sense of accomplishment.

“I can just stand back and look at what I did and be able to say, ‘I did part of this work and I know how to do it,’” he said. “I'm just grateful to even be able to do this because, I’m still in high school and I'm already learning how to build a house.”

Cordova agrees: “One day you show up, you work for two hours and there's four walls up. You can already see the whole house.”

The two and their classmates began on the house “when there was just a hole in the ground. I helped the cement guys level out the concrete that was poured in the basement,” Cordova said. “Then everything from the anchor bolts to the rim board on them to the floor on that the TGIs (Truss Joist I-Joist); I think what we did the most was just learned to build wall receiving walls, exterior walls, load bearing walls.”

Tolayo said that through the process, he’s applying what he has learned in class as well as gaining new skills.

“You're always learning something every time you come here,” he said. “I didn't know anything about building a house and the foundation, so pretty much what I’ve learned is going to stay with me and it’s knowledge I’ll use every time I build. I love all this program. It's just amazing.”

That’s the goal, Drury said.

“I just love that this program gives kids real world, hands-on learning,” he said. “They can apply what they learn and learn real, useful skills. I also love that there is a direct path for them to find success. I also love that every kid with every specific skill set or talent, there’s a place for them to be successful. And we produce a quality product that goes out on the market. It’s a real testament to our kids.”