Benson High School students help build homes with Habitat for Humanity

Omaha students get some hands-on experience building homes
Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 4:43 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Construction work is underway at the site of what was once a run-down, crime-ridden apartment complex.

Habitat for Humanity Omaha has knocked down the old Wintergreen Apartments and is in the process of building 85 brand-new homes on the site.

Habitat is also providing an opportunity for young people to learn the trades.

About a dozen students from Benson High are working with homebuilders from Habitat for Humanity Omaha.

The students are building homes in the area once known as the Wintergreen Apartments, near 52nd and Sorensen Parkway.

The students will gain valuable work experience in a field that’s right now facing a worker shortage.

“Our off-site program has been partnering with Habitat all year,” said Thom Sibbitt, a teacher with Benson High. “We come once a week and they get a hands-on experience. They’ve built about six homes in the neighborhood and we’re trying to get them to build the skills to get a job when they graduate.

Boris Perez is a Benson High School senior. He is learning a lot working with construction professionals.

“I’m learning general construction, I’m learning framing, tile, also drywalling,” Perez said.

Habitat Omaha officials hope to build around 45 homes on the site this year, with the students working and learning along the way.

There is a shortage of workers in the trades, and programs that show students they can make a good living working with their hands are vital.

“They’re bringing substantial skills, professional certification, on-the-job experience,” Sibbitt said. “So I’m trying to put my guys right in the front to create real life-changing opportunities because the trades pay really well.”

“The number of companies calling me and asking me if I have an 18-year-old who will come to work, put their phone away, and come to work every day is crazy. "

Habitat officials hope this program helps to quickly attract young workers to jump in and help build communities.

“And as we’re looking at our older population and they’re phasing out, you haven’t seen as many young individuals joining those fields, whether it be a plumber an electrician,” said Drew Lier with Habitat Omaha.

Boris Perez understands and wants to help fill the worker shortage, and he has a plan for his future.

“I want to start first with something little, working as a contractor and that start a company with my name,” Perez said.

About a dozen Benson High School students, Habitat Omaha staff, and other volunteers began framing the first home in the Bluestem Prarie development. Habitat Omaha officials hope to complete 45 of the 85 homes this year.