The mightiest oak starts with the tiniest acorn. This is certainly true of student Natalia Andrade’s story at Summer Creek High School. Andrade is the designer of Summer Creek’s tiny home construction, a major service project to benefit a veteran in need. Kingwood Park students are also constructing a tiny home, and the students from both schools work closely together.
For Andrade, it all started when architecture teacher James Gaylord asked Andrade to attend an AutoCAD computer-aided design and drafting software presentation. One meeting and Andrade was hooked. She began drawing small elements which soon turned into a whole-house design.
Andrade said she thought she would always study business in college, but now she wants to major in architecture and one day have her own firm.
“I just needed to fill an elective class. There wasn’t much left, so I chose principles of architecture. Now I’m building a tiny house!” she exclaimed.
The students have planned and designed the homes and are now in the construction phase. In December, they held a wall-raising ceremony open to the community, and both homes are expected to be completed by the end of the school year.
After a visit to a tiny home community for the homeless in Austin, the students were motivated by seeing what having a home meant to people who have very little in life. Upon learning about the pressing needs of veterans in the Humble community, the students knew that this was something they wanted – and needed – to do.
Students serve as lead architects and builders and consult with professional architects and engineers such as BRW Architects and TriPoint Construction. Andrade says the project has been challenging, but that she has learned a lot: AutoCAD, architecture, budgeting, discipline and time management.
While both schools are building unique floor plans, they bounce ideas off each other and support each other’s efforts to build suitable, safe homes for the veterans. Sarah Dalby is the lead architect at Kingwood Park High School. Dalby’s teacher, Missi Taylor, spoke about a video her students watched regarding Kansas homeless veterans and their life challenges. Taylor said it really taught the students how homeless veterans are impacted and was the initial inspiration for the field trip to Austin to visit the 27-acre tiny home community.
Taylor is an architect who worked in the industry for nearly 20 years before teaching four different levels of architecture classes in Humble ISD, first at Summer Creek and now at Kingwood Park.
“These projects are entirely student-led. They manage it all. To see them take charge is truly amazing,” Taylor said.
Summer Creek student Blayne Adams credits House Principal Al Segura as the person who saw the spark and set the project in motion. Segura learned about other groups who were building tiny homes, thought it would be a great high school service project, and soon teamed up with Houston Coalition for the Homeless to set the idea in motion.
Adams said that a core architecture team of about five students work on the project, but the tiny homes are open to any student who wants to participate.
“Our goal is to give back to the community, so even if a student only has an hour or two, we would love their participation. The interest has spread by word of mouth and we’ve incorporated so many great ideas from students,” Segura said.
Adams said that it is hard for him to put into words what the project has meant to him. He hopes to one day attend the Air Force Academy.
“Serving those who have already served our country is incredibly meaningful for me,” said Adams. “This is life experience; you can’t read this in a book.”
Tiny homes are generally under 500 square feet; the movement began a little over a decade ago to provide an affordable option during the nation’s financial downturn.
The students hope that eventually all the high schools in the district are able to do the project, but meanwhile, KPark and Summer Creek both plan to churn out one home per year to continue to benefit veterans. For their first homes, they are still making plans regarding where to make the donation.
Taylor said that each home costs about $25,000 to build. The teachers have written Humble ISD Education Foundation grants and the students have done fundraisers, but more funding is definitely needed. Taylor is grateful for the presentation opportunities to Humble City Council and the City of Houston not only because they have provided the students with incredible experience, but also because each time, they have received a contact for possible funding.
Taylor’s dream is that one day the team will find about 25 acres of property in the community and close to public transportation so that a tiny-home community can come to fruition. She envisions residents working onsite and contributing to their own tiny-home community. Taylor said that the 1960 Hope Center has expressed interest in helping to raise awareness and perhaps scout out land. The team would love to have as much community involvement as possible. Learn more about the Students Helping Veterans: Big Heroes, Tiny Homes project at humbleisd.net.