Some delinquent Iowa kids look forward to swinging a hammer tomorrow in western Iowa, doing good as they do time at the former state reform school. Jerry Kadner’s a home-construction teacher at the state training school in Eldora, and will bring a house they’ve built to Council Bluffs for the “Habitat for Humanity” program. He says they like hammering better than hitting the books, and they’re learning a career skill in carpentry. Most of his projects are based around the Habitat program and so far they’ve built 28 homes that were then taken to sites, so the students are busy with projects most of the time. Some of the kids sent to the state training school have had hard lives, but Kadner says they like the idea of building homes for needy families, even though they’re not paid for the work. Most of the kids haven’t held a regular job when they come to the training school so this gives them a work skill for when they leave. He also teaches them about volunteer service and the Habitat program, and takes them to board meetings in Waterloo so they can see how they’re run. There are 180 kids at the training school, and Kadner has 8 to 11 students in his building class at any one time. They build a house and come along when it’s hauled to the site where a roof will be placed on top and professionals will finish plumbing, wiring and the rest of the finish work. The school has a 4-door pickup they’ll travel in and now they have a 30-foot trailer — the National Guard used to haul the houses for them but “they’ve been busy fightin’ the war,” he says, so the school got a grant to buy its own trailer, from the American Legion. When he leaves the school grounds this week, he’ll take along the four students that have shown the highest skill and best behavior in this current class. The houses are usually 1,100 square feet, around 24-by-forty feet, and at the school they can work year-round on homes that’ll be taken to the site when they’re done. The kids get an education from building the house, plus social skills when they go on the trip. The kids will do and see a variety of construction tasks and Kadner says his testing confirms they improve in academic and life skills from their experience in the class. The house took about three weeks to frame at the training school, and when they arrive in Council Bluffs tomorrow they’ll spend another day with the crews that will add insulation, wiring and the roof. He says the kids leave school with marketable skills — learning math on the job like how to divide fractions, and in addition to carpet-laying and automotive training he teaches them “how to learn”…that they can look things up and that if they have a will to learn, “there’s somebody out there that’ll train ya.”
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