To 36 youths from Phelps and Bell Vocational High Schools a dusty, burned-out building shell at 1303 Euclid St.,NW is a dream come true.
Since mid-September, the students have been gaining practical work experience under the school system's Building Renovation Construction Program. Over the next year they will gut the building and install all the plumbing, electrical wiring, and do all the carpentry work needed to fully restore it.
The work-study program, which allows the students to work and attend classes on alternate weeks, is one of the many career development programs designed for the District's six vocational schools.
"This type of training puts the students in contact with the real world of construction," said George Brummell, director of the program. "This is the real McCoy. They will have experienced the whole bit once they're finished here."
Prior construction projects completed by students include various school renovation jobs. said Brummell. He estimates that construction students have fulfilled nearly $30,000 in carpentry, electricity, and plumbing work in city schools over the past 18 months. Once they have completed the Euclid Street house Brummell said the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) will either sell it or rent it to a low-income family.
The building renovation program grew out of a cooperative effort between the school system, HCD, and a private foundation interested in promoting youth in the building trades, said Brummel. The foundation, the District Foundation for Vocational Training, is made up of educators, realtors, insurance brokers and construction people.
Otho E. Jones, assistant superintendent of career development programs, said HCD supplied te house and building materials for the project and the foundation provided consultants. The school system, he said, provided instructors in three areas: electricity, plumbing, and carpentry.
"The importance of this program is in what cooperative endeavors, such as this, can do to extend school programs beyond the school walls," Jones said.
Elizabeth Smith, community relations specialist for the city's vocational schools, said girls will participate in the renovation program as well. Student apprentices are selected by their instructors and George Brummell on the basis of their skill, said Smith, and some girls have already qualified for the program.
"We hope to have the females included before the year is over," she said.
While most of the students said they're planning careers in construction, others like Jerome Woodland are studying construction for other reasons.
Woodland, an employee at the Government Printing Office, said he entered the program under the GI bill two years ago to sharpen his carpentry skills.
"Carpentry was mostly what I did when I left home," said Woodland. "I guess that's why I'm interested in it. Besides, I've got a house and it doesn't have everything I planned for in it. Now I can do the work myself."
Damian Mathis, 17, an industrial electricity major at Phelps, said he has been interested in electronics since he was kid. "When I got the chance to start studying what I wanted I took the opportunity to study electrical engineering."
Working on the house has been a challenging, though dusty, experience he said. "But I don't mind the dirt. I'm getting something out of it," he said.
After high school Mathis said he'll either take the PEPCO engineering test or continue his education in college.
Employment problems faced by liberal arts majors inspired Michael McIntosh to study plumbing.
"I saw that academic schools weren't offering too much in making money, so I decided to go into plumbing," he said, "I thought with the right supervision I could do it. With the right supervision I can do anything.
McIntosh, 18, said he also plans to study computer technology because he doesn't want to be locked into one career.
Rembert Allen, carpentry coach on the project, said the students have been ably performing their duties.
"The group I have now is pretty good. About the only thing we had to correct them on is their work attitude," he said. "Otherwise they're excellent in how they're handling themselves."
Instructing along with Allen are Wayne Wells, in plumbing, and Percy Davis, in electricity.
The students working on the project are carpentry majors Keith Anderson, Rudy Briscoe, Jesse Jones, Randy Lee, Kevin Lewis, Jeffrey Liverpool, George Long, Barry Owens, Alvin Royal, John West, James Wilson and Jerome Woodland.
Electrical wiring and industrial electricity majors include Thomas Alston, Tony Bryant, John Carey, Charles Dorsey, Michael Grant, John Hancock, Lawrence King, Damian Mathis, Kim Scott, Ronald Ward, and Dennis Wilson.
The plumbing majors are Chappelle Bowman, David Campbell, Robert Cooper, Karl Cowan, Wilkerson Early, Timothy Harris, Anthony McDonald, Michael McIntosh, Derrick Myers, Tyrand Nicholson, Timothy Ross, and Michael Wilson.