It’s Saturday morning and the last coat of paint is going on 1708 McBroom.
Fernanda Trevino-Suarez, paintbrush in hand, has managed to coat a few strands of her hair with white trim. A few feet away, classmate Christine Ji has a few specks on her face.
The young women of Hockaday are on the job. Yes, Hockaday, the private girls’ school whose donors and graduates come from some of Dallas’ wealthiest and most important families. For each of the last eleven years, Hockaday has teamed up with St. Mark’s school for boys to build a house for Habitat for Humanity. That means raising $80,000 for the materials, and perhaps more importantly, pitching in on weekends to actually construct the home--from the bare slab on up to the shingles.
“I never thought I’d be building a house,” Fernanda says. For the second year in a row she’s been a “core volunteer” for Habitat, meaning she’s completed a training course on how the organization builds houses. This year, when the house was finished, Fernanda was honored to present the keys to the family who would live there. “I was working with them the whole build,” she says. “It was an amazing event. It’s their house, it’s where they’re going to live. They’ve never had anything like this.”
Families are required to pay for the home as well as contribute “sweat equity” in its construction. It turns out that at Hockaday and St. Marks Habitat volunteering is a family affair, too.
Fernanda’s mother Alejandra started volunteering with her students three years ago and fell in love with the process. “I didn’t expect it to blow me away the way it did,” she says. “What was impressive to me was not only the work that was done for our homeowners but how hard the students worked.”
As campus coordinator at Hockaday, Fernanda starts recruiting volunteers as early as eighth grade, even though Habitat rules don’t allow students to work on home sites until they’re sixteen years old.
The younger students still find a way to contribute. They build outdoor benches and playhouses for Habitat homeowners.
“You feel like you’ve accomplished something,” says Sarah Crow, a 15-year-old freshman who built benches this year because she’s too young to work on a house. “It’s an exciting experience.”
Hockaday students are required to contribute fifteen hours of community service each year, says Hockaday Trustee Kathy Crow. Mrs. Crow went to a bench-building session at Habitat headquarters with daughter Sarah and dozens of other parents and proudly pitched in.
“I feel like at this community, Hockaday, we’ve been given a lot,” Mrs. Crow, a school trustee says. “We’ve been very privileged, and it’s a nice way to give back to the city.”
Byron Harris, a 40-year reporter for WFAA-TV, writes Byron’s Lens.