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Murray Journal

Murray High project home gave students opportunity to learn

Dec 01, 2023 11:40AM ● By Julie Slama

Murray High students compact dirt in front of the home they built, which will have an open house Dec. 19. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

Murray High alum Alejandro Tolayo helped build the cabinets that he and other Salt Lake Community College cabinetry students installed in a 2,800-square foot home on Bullion Street, one block north of Viewmont Elementary.

It was a home he helped start to build last school year, which will come up for sale in late December. The Murray High house, which 37 students this term helped to complete, will have its open house for the public from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., Dec. 19. The house at 711 W. Bullion St. will be put on sale and money from the home sale will go back into future project houses for students.

Toyalo’s former skilled and technology education high school teacher Quinn Drury said he has witnessed this many times in his 28-year career during 12 different project houses.

“Over the years, we’ve had hundreds of kids from our program build the cabinets because when they graduated from our program they got college scholarships (at SLCC),” he said, estimating 75% of his seniors every year receive the full-tuition scholarships at SLCC, Utah Valley University, Weber State University, Brigham Young University and Southern Utah University.

It’s the second two-story house built by the high school students. Designed by Hearth Home Designers, the home features nine-foot ceilings and includes a finished basement; it’s the first time students have finished a basement. There are three bedrooms with built-in closet shelving and three and one-half bathrooms, with two bathtubs and two showers and tile flooring.

Junior Ethan Syevens said his favorite room may be the master bedroom.

“It’s pretty spacious and the master bedroom has a very nice view of the backyard,” he said. “All the bathrooms are nice.”

The SLCC-made cabinets, with soft-hinged pull-out shelving, stretch from the kitchen to the mud room, which has hooks and shelving for coats, hats and mittens. Inside a walk-in food pantry, there are three plug-ins. The kitchen, which looks into the backyard, also has two sinks, granite countertops, luxury laminate flooring and under-the- cabinet lighting.

Junior Kristina Jorgensen, who followed her brother’s footsteps in enrolling in the class, appreciated the “modern kitchen look and functionality with the cabinets.”

On the main level is an open living room that flows into the dining room. The family room is on the lower level and the laundry is upstairs. The three-car garage sits off of the kitchen to the north and to the south, a barbecue area in the backyard. It sits on .2 acres. The home, with insulated walls and doors, an enormous cold storage room and a tankless water heater, received a five-star energy rating.

Senior Xander Brener, who wants to study engineering, likes the experience and problem-solving he’s getting by building the home the past two years. His appreciates the overall look of the home.

“The front entrance with the pillars is appealing to the eye,” he said, adding that he liked climbing the rafters to work on the roofing. “I’ve learned how trusses go together; we built them first then pulled them up to the roof.”

Drury, who said that “Xander is a good candidate for the CT scholarship (at SLCC),” said his students work on all aspects of the house.

“I’ve always told my students the best way to learn something is to do it and here, they actually get to,” he said.

Brener enjoys the class.“The teachers provide us with knowledge and hands-on work and that’s the best type of work in my opinion,” he said.

Syevens also appreciates the chance to have real-world experience, getting a break from classroom learning. He was part of the crew that put in the fiberglass insulation and drywall.

“I learned how to put up drywall and learned important skills with mudding,” he said. “I feel like mudding would be a skill I might use later in life when I get a home and do my own renovations.”

Jorgensen learned tiling and may apply her knowledge to helping repair tiling at her parents’ home.

“I had no idea how to put it down or even how to cut it with a tile machine,” she said. “You have to mix up the grout and lay it down and make sure your lines are straight. Otherwise, there will be air bubbles and the tile will pop back up.”

Drury said that “They’re learning life skills and can use these in their own homes. Many of my students are highly sought after. I get people calling weekly for kids to sign up for internships or for work. This is one class where what you do, what you produce actually goes on the open market.”

In mid-November, they still had some work within and outside of the home to finish before it was to be inspected by the Murray City inspector.

“It’s got to be a total perfect project when they’re done. When they inspect it, they talk to the kids with what they’re seeing and learning. They’ve been really good to work with us,” Drury said. 

While they all receive 18 hours of concurrent enrollment at SLCC toward construction management degree, Syevens said he may want to pursue an automotive degree as he’s also been taking those classes at the high school. Jorgensen is looking at several options ranging from art to zoology.

These students also are part of the school’s 60-member chapter of Skills USA, a career and technical student organization who are enrolled in training programs in trade, technical and skilled service occupations. Last year, Jorgensen, who is the chapter’s vice president of promotions, received a bronze state medal in the job interviewing competition. She plans to compete this spring as well as Syevens and Brener, who is the chapter treasurer.

This month, the student will build about 50 wooden cars to give to kids both at the school’s preschool as well as those at Primary Children’s Hospital. In addition, they’ll cut out hundreds of wooden Christmas ornaments so children at the hospital can paint and decorate them. It’s a 25-year tradition for Drury’s classes.

“We want to give back to the community the opportunities to have our kids grow and to learn and to have these experiences,” he said.

Next term, in addition to starting a new project house on Woodrow Street, they also plan to give to the community by constructing a one-bedroom home in the school parking lot that then will be moved to The Other Side Village, as an affordable home in the planned community designed for people coming out of chronic homelessness.

“The state came to us asked if we could help build it and I thought I’d be a good experience for the kids in a way to give back to the community,” Drury said. “It keeps our program strong; we can always be building so we plan to continue doing this as there is a need.”

From mastering skill to building a house to serving the community, Drury has goals for his students: “If they apply themselves, they can do whatever they want. They can climb any mountain.” λ