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New Goal For CMS Seniors: Build A House

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system gave its seniors a new goal Wednesday to accomplish before graduating– build three houses. CMS is partnering with Habitat for Humanity to encourage students to get their hands dirty.

Hard hats, tool belts and wooden boards were set up in front of the bookshelves in Independence High School's library as CMS Superintendent Heath Morrison announced the partnership, called Senior Buildup.

Morrison said it's all about giving students a well-rounded education.

"And a big part of that education is to be good citizens - to understand that along their journey on an educational pathway, many, many people have given to them, and that they must also give back," Morrison said.

There's not a set goal for how many seniors will work on the houses, but Morrison said all CMS high schools will be involved. The schools are grouped into three different zones, and there'll be one house built in each by graduation.

Casey Long from Butler High School will be one of the seniors getting her hands dirty, and she thinks there'll be a lot of others.

"We've always been looking for ways to get involved in our community," Long said. "We recognize that learning doesn't just happen in the classroom. We need to leave the school, leave the walls that our classrooms are in and learn things outside."

And Elec Shelton from Independence says this kind of extracurricular activity is right up his alley.

"I've always been a handyman, like with my grandfather, working with him," Shelton said. "I honestly have been looking forward to working with something hands on that isn't typical."

Meaning: not the usual activities his school administrators suggest.

CMS will provide transportation to the builds and is responsible for raising the $75,000 needed for each house. CMS did not go into detail on how it will raise the money.

Habitat for Humanity's Charlotte president Frank Spencer said it's the biggest volunteer effort his organization has been involved in. He said it'll help Habitat get the word out about affordable housing.  

"It expands our ability I think to influence community attitudes," Spencer said. "It also brings a younger volunteer base into our organization, which is always a healthy thing."

After the seniors build three houses this year, CMS plans for them to build five next year.