VA Tech students learning while volunteering

By Al Showers – bio | email

PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - More than four years after hurricane Katrina devastated the Coast, volunteers continue to come to our aid. One of those volunteer organization is working Thanksgiving week in Henderson Point to put a family victimized by Katrina back into a home. They are architecture and interior design college students from Virginia Tech.

They are getting on the job training while at the same time helping storm victims return home. Six Virginia Tech students will spend their winter semester helping the non-profit organization SouthCoast Design Build by building a house.

Executive Director SouthCoast Design Build Leah McBride said, "We exists to continue the efforts of rebuilding on the Coast. Coupled with the mission of giving design and architecture students a hands on opportunity to see their designs realized while working with the clients."

The students have been involved in the building process from the very beginning. They spent two weeks meeting with the homeowner, to design a house that would fit the family's needs.

"So each home is uniquely designed, and they spend the rest of the semester building the home. So they are accountable for design decisions, and they're learning construction as they go," McBride said. "They are earning full time credit. Prior to this semester, all of their design exercises were on paper, and they were theoretical exercises, so here they've had to conform to budget, clients needs and actually be able to build what they design themselves."

The students say this experience will give them a jump in a competitive job market. Lindsey Jarrels is a senior Virginia Tech Interior Design Student.

"We built it, so we know how it goes together. Where as a lot of students back at Tech haven't had this experience," Jarrels said.

As for working Thanksgiving week and away from their families the students don't seem to mind.

"We're helping the community, and I guess that's what Thanksgiving is all about," said Mike Martorelli, a Senior Virginia Tech Architecture Student.

SouthCoast Design/Build works with College students from universities all over the nation.

The organization is looking for property owners in the West Harrison County area who need a house built and who have the ability to contribute to the cost of building materials to contact them at 228-452-7674.

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