High School Homebuilders Get More Than Education

For high school students, the school year is winding down. At a school outside Portland, Ore., students aren't just taking final exams — they've been putting the finishing touches on a new house.

The sports teams at Forest Grove High School are called the Vikings. And every year, some students build what they call a "Viking house" in the surrounding neighborhood. It's a real house that the school sells to raise money.

"We're out here sweating [while] most kids are sitting in classes," says Valerie Bonjiorno, a senior who plays on the basketball team. She's building a shed in the backyard.

"This isn't even like a class," Bonjiorno adds. "I mean, yeah, we learn more than any other class in the school, but it's more like a job, I guess."

The house looks great, too. It has skylights, an inlaid wood floor and handmade maple cabinets in the kitchen. Local contractors volunteer to help the students, so everything looks high-end and professional.

"We try to put those little touches in the house, and just try to add a little bit more wood into the house than you see these days," says wood shop teacher Chris Higgenbotham, who designs the house each year.

Higgenbotham says this is his dream job. He used to work for a homebuilder, but he likes teaching high school students.

"I had a couple of young ladies in 2008 that were both valedictorians, involved in everything — plays, sports, you name it. When they said, 'What was your most valuable high school experience?' Without a doubt, they didn't even hesitate — 'Viking house. Viking house.' "

During the housing boom, the Viking houses were selling for around $400,000. Given the market right now, though, this house will be offered for around $315,000.



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