Angel Ewald was grinning ear to ear Sunday afternoon as he walked into a newly constructed, 3,137-square-foot home in Palatine.
As a junior at Palatine High School, Ewald designed the two-story, four-bedroom house as part of his Project Lead the Way civil engineering and architecture program. Over the last two years, his vision was brought to life by dozens of building construction students from Palatine and Fremd high schools.
The house at 155 E. Glade Road features a modern layout with a chef-style kitchen, oak flooring, a laundry room, a fireplace, a deck and state-of-the-art security system -- all completed at the hands of students under the direction of their teachers. Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 hosted an open house Sunday to show off their work.
"It's awesome to finally see it (done)," said Ewald, who now studies technology education at Illinois State University.
The building construction class provides high schoolers with a hands-on learning opportunity that helps them build up their technical and professional skills, from laying tile to building relationships, said Chris Gunsteen, who teaches the class at Palatine High School.
"It's a bridge between the education world and the professional world," he said. "There's a level of trust (and) a rapport that gets developed through this project."
For students like Donovan Sandoval, a senior at Fremd who plans to pursue a career in architecture, the experience was invaluable. Though she's familiar with building design software, she said the hands-on work she completed on the house -- painting walls, installing base trim, building out the laundry room -- helped her stand out and land an internship this summer.
"I told them about this class, and they were really impressed by that," said Sandoval, a Hoffman Estates resident. "It looks really nice on a resume."
For some, the building construction program serves as the first step for getting a job or an apprenticeship immediately after high school, said Josh Cattero, who teaches the class at Fremd.
"There are a lot of successful careers out there in construction that we help open their eyes to," he said, noting a four-year college isn't always the best or most feasible option for students. "It is not the only route."
Palatine resident Cathy Veller said her son, Hunter, falls into that category. Before graduating from high school and joining the Marine Corps, Hunter gained valuable life skills during his two years in the building construction program, she said. He even retiled his mom's bathroom.
"I feel like a lot of kids are pushed into academia, and some of the kids aren't built for that," Veller said. "He was more about learning through being hands-on and participating in something, so it was just the perfect combination for him."
The building construction program has allowed students to have a hand in producing houses for the last 40 years. Only recently did the district start holding a contest for students to design the homes and present their work, Superintendent Dan Cates said.
Homes designed by Palatine students Nelson Bartolo and Audrey Birk are next on the docket to be built.
"Our purpose is to get students ready for life after high school," Cates said. "This is a wonderful program. They pick up skills, develop connections and develop a lot of confidence in starting a project and finishing it."