Man with beard measuring a wooden object

Home ownership is expensive. Just ask anyone who has had to call a builder, an electrician, or a drywall installer for an estimate to have something fixed or to complete a dream project. That is why Allegan High School Industrial Arts instructor Kenny Whitcomb is teaching his students that they can develop the skills and confidence necessary to tackle those tasks on their own someday.

Walk into Mr. Whitcomb's Home Maintenance and Repair class, and you will see him moving between student workstations offering encouragement and suggestions as his students are working through their latest project: building an L-shaped wall section with a duplex outlet, a light switch, and a light fixture. "My goal is to have them go through the steps of construction," he said. "We have been building a small section of a stud wall, putting in electrical boxes and wiring, drywalling, mudding, and eventually painting it."

Mr. Whitcomb wants his students to consider that even tasks as simple as hanging a picture or repairing a small hole in drywall requires construction knowledge. "It's important that students have an understanding of what it's like inside the wall," he said. "We haven't talked about plumbing yet, but that's another thing that we don't want to do damage to."

Mr. Whitcomb knows that a majority of his students will not become builders or electricians, but he believes that these skills will come in handy regardless. "Most people are not going to build walls and completely drywall them, but they are going to live in apartments, and they'll have to put down security deposits," he said.

He shares stories with his students about how damage can occur to walls from something as simple as moving furniture to some events that are a bit more bizarre. "I show pictures of my daughter's six-month old Burnese mountain dog who is now 80 pounds and the hole that she chewed in the wall in their apartment," he said.

He also wants his students to understand that there are rules and codes they need to abide by when they build. "We have focused on understanding the zoning districts in a municipality or township," he said. "(Students) need to understand that there are rules, and you can't build within a certain number of feet of your property line, and it can vary depending on the zoning district."

But perhaps most importantly, he hopes that when his students are done with this project, they will have created something with their own hands using their newly-acquired DIY skills that they are proud of and will put to use. "This could sit on someone's nightstand," Mr. Whitcomb said. "It could be a charging station and reading light, and they will have built it all themselves."

Pictured above: AHS Industrial Arts teacher Kenny Whitcomb hopes that the construction skills he is teaching his students will come in handy for them in the future.