CCHS Building trades completes 32nd student-built home, first outside county

Culver Community High School's Building Trades program has completed its 32nd student-built home, which happens to not only be its largest to date, but the first built outside of Culver and, in fact, Marshall County.

An open house was held late last month at the 45,000 square foot home of A.J. and Jennifer Gappa, located on the south shore of Bass Lake along State Road 10 in Starke County. Besides CCHS builders, students also hailed from Knox and North Judson high schools, according to instructor Kyle Elliott, who marks his 20th year heading up the program.

The property, say the Gappas, had been in their name for seven or eight years prior to the construction. A single-story ranch, which had been condemned prior to their purchase, occupied the space while the couple's name edged slowly upwards on the always-lengthy waiting list for building trades homes. As in the past, participants must provide the land and pay for all building materials, plus a percentage over that cost.

A.J. Gappa, who works in the Knox school system, says Culver Comm. Schools' vocational education coordinator Jerry Hollenbaugh first suggested the program. Gappa was surprised to hear from Elliott about a year ago saying Gappa was next on the list for Building Trades, if the highest name of the list dropped out. That turned out to be the case, and the Gappas and Elliott scrambled a bit to prepare for work to commence. This also accounted in part for a delay which left a minor amount of work to be done on the decks and other areas of the house.

Few would notice, given lavish, expansive home, which contains five bedrooms, three and a half baths, hardwood floors, a fieldstone fireplace and open concept with cathedral ceilings to take full advantage of the view of Bass Lake. Elliott points out the copious cabinetry in the home is Culver-made Elkay-Medallion, provided by the Counter Top Shop of Plymouth (the Medallion plant doesn't sell its products directly to consumers). The home also includes a three-car garage.

"I'm very proud of the kids' effort," says Elliott. "We had a good group of kids and that made it a very enjoyable year.

"There was a lot of interest and support in the community," he adds. "That's the biggest thing that has helped, along with (Culver Community) administration support."

He notes the program started in 1979 "when the economy was bad and interest rates extremely high. With the support of the community and administration, we've been able to prevail through that."

The program also gave out $6,000 in scholarships to its students to help them further their education or enter apprenticeship training programs this year, adds Elliott.

"I think Kyle Elliott's an excellent instructor," says Gappa. "I already knew the program was top notch. Now I got to see that on a first-hand, everyday basis instead of just from a school person's point of view."

Students working on the project included John Allman, Kaelin Bacewic, Kyle Balsley, Jordan Beem, Ben Button, Grant Campbell, Cody Fletcher, Cameron Gardner, Dustin Kroft, Mark Lehman, Stephen Lehman, Tyler Lowry, Dakota Manns, Shawn Russell, Jordan Sanders, Evan Scherf, Ethan Sheridan, Zach Temme, Adam Tompos, Josh Walters, Dustin Wheeler, and Dakota Wolber.