September 13, 2018

On August 22, the Northeast Metro 916 Career and Technical Center held an open house for a home built by students from the North East Metro 916 School District, Saint Paul College, and Century College.

The Construction Occupations Program, in its 19th year, brought together students from the schools for the collaborative house-building project.

High school Carpentry students built the home, Saint Paul College Cabinetry students built the cabinets, and the Century College Interior Design students were responsible for all decisions regarding the interior design.

The house was sold for market value by North Saint Paul to a family of five within 12 hours of becoming available. This isn’t unexpected – in the past two years of the program, the homes have sold before an open house was held.

“It’s a super collaboration for all of the schools, all of the students involved, and ultimately, for North Saint Paul,” said Century College faculty member Catherine Harrington, an Interior Design Instructor.

An Actual Home

For the students, the Construction Occupations Program provides real-world experience that you can’t get inside the classroom.

“This is great for students because it isn’t an imaginary project that won’t actually happen,” said Harrington. “This is an actual home that actually gets built.”

The students in the project must work on a restricted budget. The job of Century College’s Interior Design students is to raise the value of the home by giving it a modern, yet timeless look that makes it appear more expensive than its budget.

“Every time I meet with them, I don’t think it’s going to work,” said Tom Spehn, who teaches the Construction Occupations Program at Northeast Metro 916. “But they get done, and the place looks phenomenal.”

“The house is very high-quality for a modest price,” said Harrington. “That provides a boost for the entire neighborhood.”

Building Community

The Construction Occupation Program isn’t only a benefit to students – it makes a big difference for the community as well. According to Spehn, the program has made an approximately $3.5 million dollar impact in the North Saint Paul community.

“What the city has noticed is that as soon as we put in a new house, the neighbors start fixing up their houses to meet the standard our students have set,” said Spehn. “It gets contagious when you start putting new properties in.”

The most recent student-built house, which is the tenth built within the past nine years, will likely add to that impact.

“To hear what the city sold it for is exciting,” said Interior Design student Jessica Potter. “It was very profitable and great for the city.”

To raise their housing stock, North Saint Paul is looking to the program to help revitalize their neighborhoods by creating value and attracting new families.

“This is what we need to do to keep the community alive and going,” said Spehn.

Creating a Warm Environment

Anyone who has debated paint colors with their significant other knows the importance of interior design. A warm environment, particularly in the cold winter months of Minnesota, can make a big difference.

“We do far more than make your home pretty and throw pillows on sofas,” said Harrington. “We affect your whole life – how comfortable you are in your home, how rested you are there, how energized you are there.”

The most important things students need to learn, according to Harrington, is how to interact and create good relationships with clients.

“Our students need to learn how to listen to our clients so we can create beautiful environments that work with their lives,” said Harrington. “The only way we can do that is by forming a relationship with them.”

For Potter, who designed the kitchen and bathrooms, helping to put together a home that improves people’s lives is the greatest reward.

“It’s exciting to know a family is going to get to enjoy that space we created for them,” said Potter.