University students build house during spring break

University of Houston-Victoria student Nathan Falkenstine installs trusses for a house roof. He spent part of his spring break with other college students building a Habitat for Humanity house.

While some university students are spending their spring break lounging on the beach, a group of University of Houston-Victoria and Texas Christian University students are building a house for a Victoria family in need.

The students are participating in the Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Challenge, a nationwide program for college students who want to volunteer during their school breaks. Students from around the U.S. travel to participating Habitat affiliates and spend the week building a house with the nonprofit organization.

Nathan Falkenstine, a UHV junior business major, said he is volunteering with Habitat because he respects the organization’s mission of ending poverty housing.

“I wanted to be part of helping a family get into a quality home,” he said. “I have construction experience, so I was able to use my skills on the job site.”

The students are spending the week putting up walls and installing roof trusses. The house is located in the Swan Crossing neighborhood near Stroman Middle School.

“This program lets you meet people you normally wouldn’t in the community and from other universities,” said Sarah Sheppard, a TCU sophomore business major. “I like that I got to do something different for spring break and can say, ‘I built a house.’”

UHV is hosting 10 TCU students in Jaguar Suites while they are in Victoria. Sheppard said they enjoy having a nice place to relax after leaving the job site.

“Last year at a different Habitat Collegiate Challenge, we were sleeping on air mattresses in a church gym, so we really appreciate the university letting us stay at Jaguar Suites,” she said.

Besides the Collegiate Challenge, Habitat for Humanity encourages youth to participate in the entire process of getting a family into a new home – from raising money to building the house. Youth United is a program for volunteers ages 5 to 25. The local affiliate, Golden Crescent Habitat for Humanity, recently started a Youth United group in Victoria that includes UHV students.

The program introduces the next generation of volunteers to more than just construction, said Rebekah Logan, coordinator for Habitat outlying counties resources and Youth United.

“They learn about fundraising, advocacy and marketing,” she said. “The city and the university are growing fast right now, so it’s a good opportunity to work together to benefit both.”

In the future, Logan plans to organize the UHV students involved with Youth United into their own Habitat campus chapter. Representatives from the organization will be at UHV’s Volunteer Fair on March 20 in Jaguar Hall Commons to recruit volunteers.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Katy Walterscheidt 361-570-4342