Forest Grove Viking House continues steep tradition
The Forest Grove Viking House has been around since 1974, but despite more than 40 years of experience, nothing could've prepared this year's instructors and students for what 2020-21 would bring.
"It was pretty difficult because I could only have half the class for half the time," Viking House project lead Chris Higginbotham said. "Normally the kids work 240 hours, but this year it was just 120. So, everybody (students and volunteer contractors) just kind of worked extra time and on a lot of Saturdays."
The work paid off, however. The group of 16 kids, five staff, and countless contributors completed the home on time and celebrated with a "non-open house" this past Thursday, June 3, that included pizza, a gathering of participating parties, and lots of smiles.
"I mean, the friendships that come along and the skills that you get from doing this," student Thomas Burford said, "it's really hard to describe, but a great experience.
In now its sixth decade, the Forest Grove Viking House has become a tradition. Since 1974, every year, Forest Grove High School advanced construction students — in conjunction with industry professionals — build a single-family home using profits from previous projects. While leaving some of the work to those noted professionals, students do the bulk of the carpentry work, including the framing, flooring, cabinetry and much more.
"The carpentry is what we teach in the high school, but we also try and get everybody involved with all the major phases," Higginbotham said. "But we have professional plumbers and electricians take care of most of that stuff."
The work is not for the weary, nor is it for the laymen. Prerequisites include woodworking and construction classes. Sometimes as many as 50 students apply, but in a typical year, the program only accepts 16 qualified applicants.
"We've actually had to do a timed skills test before to filter them out," Higginbotham said. "It was very difficult."
One of those students was Joshua King, who plans to study engineering in college. He said that he took the class simply because he enjoys building things, but said that ultimately the class and the process offered much more than he originally planned on.
"I expected to build a house, but what came along with that was definitely a lot more than I anticipated," King said. "But once I learned how to do everything, I had the realization that I could do it, and that was really empowering."
Neither King nor Buford plan to work in construction as a career, but both spoke directly to the skills they acquired while on the project as things that will undoubtedly be of value later in life.
"I'm going to be a diesel mechanic, so this doesn't directly correlate," Buford said, "But if I ever end up buying a house and want to have a shed in the backyard, now I know how to do that to code, do it accurately, proficiently and correctly."
And for the house itself? It will remain in the community with the other houses scattered throughout varying Forest Grove neighborhoods, a reminder to King, Buford and all of the other Viking House students of the things they learned and the work they did during this eventful year.
"Every year, my uncle and I have always come over and checked out the Viking House," Buford said. "I always hoped I'd make it in the class, and I did, and it was a lot of fun. It was definitely worth it."
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