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Pueblo Community College Southwest and Habitat for Humanity form partnership

Pueblo Community College President Patty Erjavec and Heidi Mitchell, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Montezuma County, sign a two-by-four that will be used by PCC Southwest students to build a Habitat for Humanity home. (Amy Matthew/Courtesy photo)
Construction students at PCC will help Habitat for Humanity build a starter home

Representatives of Pueblo Community College Southwest and Habitat for Humanity of Montezuma County are working toward a collaboration that they say will benefit students and the local community.

Leaders from both organizations gathered Monday to celebrate the signing of a memorandum of understanding that will provide an experiential learning lab for PCC Southwest construction program students. This program and its students will help build a Habitat for Humanity home in Cortez.

Director of Academic Services for PCC Southwest Perry Pepper approached Habitat for Humanity after the college started a construction technology program, bringing up the idea of a potential partnership. Pepper said the goal of the program is to train the workforce while addressing the need for homes.

“I believe that as we diligently train a skilled construction workforce, we can also actively contribute to the construction of homes, thus fostering workforce development and helping provide homes for the community,” Pepper said.

Habitat for Humanity was more than happy to explore the idea of partnership, eventually leading to the signed memorandum on Monday after about a year of planning and work.

“This partnership is a win all around,” said Heidi Mitchell, executive director of Habitat for Humanity in Montezuma County. “We’re engaging students in the community, putting more affordable housing into the local inventory, and keeping students here to raise their families because we can give them work skills and more affordable places to live.”

PCC Dean Lisa Snyder said the program will teach students work skills while making a difference.

“I think it’s really a game-changing partnership for both the school and the community, the experiential learning, and putting students to work actually building the homes and constructing them and being able to partner with Habitat, which will allow the students to see the benefit of their work. It’s full cycle of what we're about,” she said.

Participants pose for a photo after signing a memorandum of understanding that will provide an experiential learning lab for a PCC Southwest construction program. They are Ethan Deffenbaugh, co-founder of Higher Purpose Homes; Patty Erjavec, PCC president; Lyndreth Wall, Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Council member; Heidi Mitchell, Habitat for Humanity of Montezuma County executive director; Perry Pepper, PCC Southwest director of academic services pose for a photo after the signing. (Amy Matthew/Courtesy photo)

Both Pepper and Snyder say the partnership allows PCC to fulfill its mission to impact the community.

“Our mission at Pueblo Community College is to enrich the communities we serve, and this program is a great example of the college being sincere about that mission,” Perry said.

“We can talk about what we hope to accomplish, but this is this is living our mission, you know, putting our mission into action in order to provide that meaningful learning experience and meet the community needs,” Snyder added

According to the news release, 12 students in PCC Southwest’s carpentry class will help build the 700-square-foot starter home. The components will be constructed on the Mancos campus under the supervision of PCC instructors and transported to the home site to be assembled. Higher Purpose Homes, one of PCC’s industry partners, will build the roof.

Pepper said the hope is to complete the house by the end of the fall semester in December, and the floor of the home will be under construction the first part of next week.

“The opportunity for PCC construction technology students to work with and partner with Habitat for Humanity is sure to be a rewarding experience for everyone,” said PCC President Patty Erjavec, who was in town for the partnership’s signing. “This creative learning lab will yield the competencies necessary for our students to contribute to the building trades need for skilled workers in the Southwest region.”

Half the students in the construction class are members of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. Tribal Council member and Montezuma-Cortez RE-1 school board member Lyndreth Wall, a supporter of the college and the construction program, attended Monday’s signing.

“It was a sight for sore eyes seeing the collaboration,” Wall said.

He added he was happy to see the tribe “reaching out beyond their tribal, reservation lines,” noting that it takes “humanity to work together to support one another.”

“I really liked that, because it takes different nationalities working together,” he continued. “I don’t want it to be just Ute Mountain tribal members. We come in all colors. All nationalities working together, building houses for people to call home.”

The program, like other programs at PCC, is funded through Colorado Career Advance, which provides funding for programs educating students for in-demand fields. Since it is a no-cost program, Colorado Career Advance pays for the student’s tuition and textbooks.

They will build another home in the spring, and are actively recruiting instructors for the program.

“This partnership will provide real-world experience for students and a sense of pride for each student that works on this and future builds,” Pepper said. “Students for years to come will be able to share with their family and friends their pride from participation in these meaningful projects as they walk or drive by these homes.”