Construction trades program moves to unused space at North Division

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One Hope Made Strong founder Ezzard White introduces a new group of students to his program at North Division High School. (Photo by Andrea Waxman)

One Hope Made Strong founder Ezzard White introduces a new group of students to his program at North Division High School. (Photo by Andrea Waxman)

One Hope Made Strong, a grassroots initiative to teach building trades, has moved to North Division High School.

The program, which teaches construction skills to low-income residents 18 and older, started last fall. Until late April, business owner and former high school electricity shop teacher Ezzard White taught the free nine-module program at two central city churches, Inter-Denominational Church of the One Lost Sheep Foundational Ministries, 2567 N. 8th St., and St. Francis of Assisi Church, 1927 N. 4th St.

Though students have demonstrated great interest from the start, the church spaces were not designed for this kind of training. And there was not enough space for all of the students who wanted to take classes.

Student Anthony Harper is prepared to learn at his first One Hope Made Strong class at North Division High School. (Photo by Andrea Waxman)

Student Anthony Harper is prepared to learn at his first One Hope Made Strong class at North Division High School. (Photo by Andrea Waxman)

Aware that the skills he is offering were no longer taught at North Division and that its workshops were sitting idle, White proposed a partnership that would allow him to teach at the high school. For months, the proposal made its way through the school district’s bureaucratic process.

“We had a tremendous fight and struggle trying to get here but we’re here,” said Pastor Wendale Spivery, an OHMS volunteer, speaking at North Division.

Spivery and others who have supported White’s vision said they are excited by this development and would like to see it expanded to MPS high schools on the east and south sides.

The partnership will take the program out of churches, where there are no tools or facilities for hands-on projects, and into workshops designed for instruction and practice with real tools and materials, explained Pastor Theresa Thomas-Boyd, who has worked to promote the program.

OHMS charges $40 for each of nine eight-week modules. The topics of the modules include electricity, blueprint reading, plumbing, welding, building construction, masonry, general drafting, carpentry and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning). Throughout the program, White also teaches his students about the realities and expectations of work in the construction field.

“(White) is at his best when he’s teaching his students. He loves them all and the students can feel the love emanating from him,” Spivery said.

Tiffany Hughes learned about OHMS from her brother and his fiancée who are both taking classes on other nights. (Photo by Andrea Waxman)

Tiffany Hughes learned about OHMS from her brother and his fiancée who are both taking classes on other nights. (Photo by Andrea Waxman)

If students miss more than two classes, they must repeat the module. To earn a certificate of completion, they must have a high school diploma or a GED.

North side resident Anthony Harper was given a heads up about the program from his pastor. Harper, who is 28 and unemployed, pursued the lead to White’s construction skills training program.

“I’m here today and it’s a life changer,” Harper said.

With some experience helping his father do carpentry and lay concrete, Harper wants to build on his skills and find a well-paid job. “ I want to see that I can better myself as well as my wife and kids,” Harper said.

Harper and Tiffany Hughes were among approximately 30 students who showed up at North Division on a recent Wednesday evening for the first class of an eight-week module on welding.

Hughes, a 32-year-old homemaker from Burlington, is also hoping that the training will lead to employment. In addition, she is interested in fixing things around her home and hopes to build her own house one day.

Classes are held from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

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