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Mountain Home Magazine

The House Project

Jun 01, 2024 09:00AM ● By Carolyn Straniere

It’s the age old dilemma: You want a job in the trade industry but it requires experience, and to get the experience you need a job. And tools. But that’s changing at one area school district. Under the leadership of Drew Seeling, certified building, construction, and carpentry teacher at Wellsboro Area High School, students are getting that first-hand, hands-on experience they need for employment.

“When I first began teaching, I shared a room with the agriculture teacher,” says Drew, who started teaching in 1999. “It was basically woodshop with a focus on construction.” The students who chose the carpentry classes built a number of sheds over the years, as well as some smaller jobs. But Drew had a grander vision: to build a house from inception to completion with the students doing the work.

“I wanted to bring the educational involvement to new heights for the students by allowing them to experience the entire process of building a home.” Drew continues, “I would drive past this vacant lot near the high school every day. It was a hang-out for those who probably shouldn’t have been there and a bit of an eyesore, yet I knew it would be perfect for our project.” The only problem: the property wasn’t for sale.

Eventually that piece of land did become available for purchase, and that’s when the real work began.

“We had to get the school board’s approval, which meant the students needed to pitch the idea of the house project and its benefits,” Drew explains. “The students needed to come up with a presentation and attend school board meetings.” The ensuing PowerPoint presentation tapped students from the business class, who figured out the financials for the project, photography and graphic arts students, who helped develop the presentation, and plant science students to design the landscaping.

“After the unanimous vote by the school board the students needed to secure the funds for the project,” Drew continues. “They went to our local banks and gave their presentation, and sent out letters to area businesses seeking funds and donations of materials.”

They were able to purchase the vacant parcel in 2017, get the necessary permits approved, and were looking forward to breaking ground shortly thereafter.

“We had secured an excavator and were eager to start when Mother Nature had other ideas,” says Drew. “There was so much rain that year it felt like monsoon season.” He chuckles, now, but, because of the delay, the original excavation company had to back out so a second excavator was hired. When the replacement company, Wellsboro-based Gra-Hill, heard about the project, they donated their time and resources for the students. “It was a blessing in disguise,” Drew says.

Juniors and seniors in the construction program work alongside electricians, plumbers, roofers, and other professionals, while the freshmen and sophomores assist with the worksite and learn about a safe work environment.

“I want to set these students up for real life experiences. They’re learning not only the technical side of construction but also a good work ethic. I see the pride they have in this project,” Drew says. “That’s not to say they don’t make mistakes. They do. But they learn from them. I like to say we ‘fail forward.’ The finished product will be one of quality.”

In addition to the hands-on training these students are getting, Drew has invited a variety of speakers to visit, from union representatives to interior designers. Just recently an employee from Sherwin-Williams explained the wide selection of paints available and their proper usage.

As with any construction project, workers need to be aware that there will be unforeseen circumstances. When covid shut things down, materials were delayed or not available; when they were, the cost had increased considerably, contributing to the completion date being pushed out.

“A construction site is always changing and adjustments need to be made along the way. The students have had to adapt to it,” Drew says. “It’s providing a valuable skill, and knowing what to expect at an actual site will help them with future employment.”

This past April, Wellsboro Rotary toured the approximately 2,000-square-foot house. “They’ve really done a great job,” says Ardys Boostrom, a Rotary member. Partnering with the Wellsboro Area School District and Develop Tioga, Wellsboro Rotary applied to the Rotary International Foundation for a grant so they could give back to the community. “We’re the first county in the state to receive this grant,” Ardys says. “Rotary gives out scholarships for seniors and this year we’re able to give a selection of tools to the four seniors in the construction program through that grant. We split the grant money between three local businesses who supplied the tools, and they’ll be presented to the students at an awards ceremony at the end of the school year.”

Originally a one-family home, Drew utilized the space above the garage for a small apartment. The goal is to have everything completed by June 2025. “We have some flooring and heating that still needs to be installed, as well as some detailing work like trim and painting,” he says. “Once it’s finished, we’ll sell the house and decide what the next large project will be.” In the meantime, students will continue with some smaller community endeavors, such as tackling some much needed work at the homeless shelter in Whitneyville.

Drew estimates about 150 students have worked on the house since the start, with some students working multiple years throughout high school. “It’s been a major undertaking but what these students take with them once they graduate is worth it,” he says.

To find out more about the house project, go to For information on Wellsboro Rotary, go to

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