CANTON, Ohio — Along Sycamore Avenue SE in Canton, there are sounds of hammering, help and hope this summer.
Several teens and young adults are learning how to build homes and other skills through a new program called Habitat Builders Academy.
The program, which runs from June through August, is run by Habitat for Humanity East Central Ohio and is funded by $125,000 in American Rescue Plan money from the cities of Massillon and Canton.
"We believe that it's not about just swinging a hammer, but how you can be empowered to make good decisions moving forward," said Courtney Brown, the director of faith and family partnership for the agency.
The students, who are on site with Habitat building crews, earn $12 an hour and work 30 hours per week. Twenty-five hours are spent at a construction site, Habitat's ReStore or a warehouse. The remaining five hours are spent in a Habitat classroom learning math, science, English and other subjects.
The extra classroom hours are important to the project in light of the difficult year many kids faced with learning during the pandemic.
"We want that space for them to take their classes and get paid while they're taking their classes because we value education at Habitat," Brown said.
Andrew Edwards, a recent graduate of Massillon High School, and Brandon Foster, who just graduated Canton McKinley High School, worked to put the frame for a front bedroom wall on the Sycamore Avenue house, which is being built for a single mother and her son.
Both teens said the skills they're learning are invaluable. Foster has learned how to use saws and cut measurement. Edwards said the trade skills will be helpful in the near future as he's planning to enroll in a trade school for carpentry.
"It's a fun experience, so I get that out of it. Every day I love coming to work. I love doing the stuff and I've met a couple of friends here too so that's nice," Edwards said. "It's a great job. The people here are amazing so I would recommend it to anyone that wants to just come out and have a good time and work hard."
In addition, Foster said the mission is meaningful to him. He has known people in the Canton area who have struggled to find a home.
"I really like that feeling like building a house for somebody that's going to live in there someday with their family and I feel like that's very special to do," Foster said.
The owner, who purchased the property with a 0% interest mortgage and must complete sweat equity in the project, should be ready to move into the home this October.