High School House Program
NeighborWorks Great Falls was founded in 1980 with a mission to revitalize the city’s historic neighborhoods, provide affordable housing and help residents become first-time homebuyers. A primary strategy in our work is collaboration with local partners, and one of the most significant examples of this is our High School House program.
NeighborWorks Great Falls joined forces with Great Falls public schools and the city to create the program, which provides new homes for residents with low or moderate incomes and gives high school students valuable employment skills. In the past 21 years, students from the Great Falls and C. M. Russell high schools have built 40 homes on vacant lots in historic neighborhoods. The students provide the labor while the city contributes community development block grant funding. NWGF supplies the lot, arranges subcontractors and finances the construction. We also work with potential homebuyers to get them mortgage-ready with homebuyer education, individual homeownership planning and down payment assistance through a matched savings program. The buyers must be first-time homeowners, and many have become first generation homeowners.
This fruitful partnership has produced multiple advantages on all sides. The students get to work in an outdoor worksite two hours a day all school year long, escaping from the confines of the classrooms. Some who were at high risk for dropping out of school stay to work on the High School House Program and graduate with their class. The off-campus classroom settings provide real-world work environments -- snow, wind and high temperatures -- everything a construction worker must endure. The program also equips the students for future career path decisions and useful training they can put into practice right away.