Meridian students learning brick by brick
Nearly 40 homes have been built by program
By David Bitton
For decades, Meridian Technology Center students have been building customized spec homes much to the delight of eventual homeowners who appreciate the attention to detail.
Meridian's four construction trades – residential and commercial construction, masonry, electrical technology and air conditioning and refrigeration – are made up of high school juniors and seniors along with adult students who are all looking to learn a trade.
Nearly 40 homes have been built under the direction and watchful eyes of instructors like Bret Pickens, masonry, and Cy Boles, residential and commercial construction, both of whom have been teaching at Meridian 30 or more years.
Their latest project is nearly complete and they will be starting another home on West Lapoint Court in the near future.
Beyond learning a trade, both Pickens and Boles said other priorities they teach are developing a strong work ethic, showing up on time ready to work and with the right tools, building up their character and making them better people by the time they leave the two-year program.
“I like the interaction with students,” Boles said. “Seeing the lights come on when a kid gets the concept is pretty special.”
The four programs now have much more space to build and work in after moving into a new building four years ago.
Custom kitchen cabinets are created and built in the facility before being moved to a job site – typically within a five minute drive – where other Meridian students are building a home.
The program buys stock home plans between 1,800-2,5000 square feet and takes their time, spending about two years to fully finish each home that then gets sold with the profit going back into Meridian's general fund.
Dennis and Carol Preston – who bought a four-bedroom, three-bathroom 2,500 square foot home on Bridlewood Drive in 2008 for more than $250,000 – said they had looked at more than 30 homes before deciding a Meridian-built home was the best choice for them.
“We thought it was better built than any we had seen and we were impressed with the quality of materials,” Carol said after touring a neighboring house that was also built by teenagers from Meridian.
She loves her kitchen, the tile floors, the wood throughout the main living space, that it is a single level and there are no steps, and that it is a short drive to Oklahoma State University where Dennis is a professor of linguistics.
“I'm really impressed with the quality of workmanship,” Dennis said.
Boles said he hears that quite a bit about his students and the work they do.
A unique feature to the Meridian-built homes is that nearly all of the homes built in the past 20 years have an above-ground safe room – typically a closet, laundry room or bathroom – that is built with concrete walls and roof and a heavy duty door.
“The construction industry as a whole is suffering for manpower,” Pickens.
Glencoe High School senior Gage Gibson, 19, said Monday there is sense of accomplishment he can see when building with brick and mortar.
“I really like that the work unfolds before your eyes,” Gibson said.
He plans to have a career in masonry while 16-year-old Faith Howell, a home-schooled high school junior from Pawnee, plans to use the skills she is learning to help pay for her college education as she works toward becoming an orthopedic surgeon.
“I really like working with masonry products because you can be so creative,” Howell said. “You can do landscaping, residential projects or huge industrial projects.”
Meridian, which is part of a network of 29 Career and Technology Education centers across the state, offers education and training for high school students and adults, industries and communities.
Hundreds of high school students from 10 area schools are bussed to the Meridian district campus – which includes parts of Payne, Lincoln, Logan, Noble and Pawnee counties – to take free courses in a wide variety of fields, while adult students pay for their education.
About the Author
David Bitton is the Community News Editor and Education Reporter for the Stillwater News Press.