Northeast students build hope for Lincoln family with 30th new home

Northeast High School students turned wooden two-by-fours into a home for a local family this school year.
Nine seniors in Bob Freese’s residential construction class helped build a modern home at 5010 Starr Street during the first and second semesters. T.J., James, Nathaniel, Harley, Sam, Justin, Brian, Derek and Deuce received commemorative hammers for their efforts during an open house this spring. The 2023-24 school year project marked the 30th year that Northeast students have helped the community with their construction talents.

Brian and Justin both smiled as they spoke about the house in one of the upstairs rooms. Students began working on the garage last fall and continued building the main house during the winter and spring. It will become a home for a Lincoln family through a lease-to-own program offered by the Lincoln Housing Authority (LHA).
“It feels pretty good,” Brian said. “My mom has family friends who got the house last year, so it’s kind of nice to know that it’s going to a family in need.”
“It just felt fulfilling, I guess,” Justin said. “Just being able to do everything and just actually seeing something that you put effort into come up. It just felt very fulfilling and good.”
Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and LHA Executive Director Chris Lamberty joined an appreciative crowd in the garage during the open house celebration. Both city leaders told the nine Rockets they were impressed with their work on the project.
“I hope you do feel an incredible sense of accomplishment,” Gaylor Baird said. “What a marvel to have made this with your hands, and to know that you’re contributing to create a home for someone. Not just a house, but a home.”
“It’s an amazing win-win program where we have students learning how homes are built and learning construction trades, and at the end we have an affordable house to sell to a first-time homebuyer,” Lamberty said.
Freese has impacted the lives of hundreds of Northeast students over the past 40 years with his leadership in skilled and technical sciences classes. His first few groups completed garden sheds and other smaller projects, but he began searching for something more advanced for them to work on. The solution came when LPS and LHA formed an educational homebuilding partnership 30 years ago.
“It can be challenging, but they’re really eager to do something real,” Freese said. “I think that’s one of the neatest things about this. This is a real house. There’s going to be a family living here. There are probably going to be families living in here for generations, no telling how long this will last. So, it’s something real.”
LHA employees purchase a lot each year and hire a general contractor and architect for the project. This year’s general contractor, Burt Muehling of Muehling Homes, handled specialized tasks such as electrical and plumbing work. Northeast students examined the design of home architect Corby Renard before completing the other construction assignments.
Approximately 25 students in Freese’s introductory construction class framed all of the walls for the house during the first semester. The nine residential construction students worked with subcontractors to carry out more complex tasks throughout the year.
The only prerequisite for Northeast students was a willingness to work hard. Justin had previously spent time helping his dad with some projects on his farm, which sparked his interest in signing up for the homebuilding class.
“I just like working with my hands,” Justin said. “I’m not one of those people who likes to sit still, so to have this during my school day, it just seemed like the right thing.”
Freese said the “aha moment” for students comes each year when they approach the date for the open house.
“When they get to this stage, where everything’s together and looking good, they’re pretty proud,” Freese said. “It’s neat to see. Just within the last few days, when we’re cleaning up and getting things ready, they have a sense of pride more so than what I’ve seen earlier in the school year. I think it’s rewarding, and for many of them, this is the first time they’ve done it, so we’re exposing them to different career options.”
Freese said teamwork, time management and perseverance are some of the skills students gain each year. They also build self-confidence as future opportunities begin to come into focus.
“They’re realizing that maybe they have strengths in these areas,” Freese said. “Not everybody is going to be a doctor or a lawyer. My dad was a plumber, and I know what he always said was, ‘Well, you know what? When a doctor needs a new toilet or a hot water heater goes out, they don’t do it themselves.’
“The trades, there are all kinds of great opportunities right now. Hopefully some of these guys will go into it, and I know a lot of students in the past have gone into it.”
Justin said he enjoyed being able to make a difference in the lives of others.
“It’s just nice to see that the work is being appreciated,” Justin said. “That there’s people here that are going to live here, and I actually made an impact doing something. Everybody here. We all made good impacts here.”

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Published: June 14, 2024, Updated: June 14, 2024

Northeast High School students smile with instructor Bob Freese in front of a new home they helped build this year. City and school leaders congratulated them during an open house ceremony at 5010 Starr Street. It marked the 30th year that Northeast students have helped the community with their construction talents. The school has partnered with Lincoln Housing Authority for all 30 projects.