The Homestead was a bustling place last week, with a small city of tents pitched near the lake, the repeated squeak and groan of the lodge door as people filtered in and out, and five students plus one instructor from Summit Academy started work from the ground up on a new cabin.
Summit Academy, a North Minneapolis-based program, focuses on providing its students with practical training, so that participants are prepared to enter the workforce in fields such as construction or healthcare. The students who worked on “Happier Acres” were on the last stretch of a twenty week program. After spending the first part of their training learning different elements of the business, they finally put together all the various skills they’d learned into the construction of the cabin, making it the first official project the students have completed from start to finish. The sense of pride and accomplishment felt by those in the class was clear on their faces as after-dinner conversation would turn to the day’s progress. Willy-Bob, one of the academy students, described the feeling of building the cabin as wholesome, going onto say that it has given him a lot of confidence. He was proud that the newly constructed cabin would long stand as a representation of the school. He plans to continue to use his newfound construction skills not just in the field, but in his everyday life as well, and hopes to someday go to school for design drafting.
Summit’s time at the Homestead was also more than just an opportunity for its students to gain practical experience. By mid-week, the students of Summit felt like permanent members of the Homestead, having quickly settled into the routine of the days. “You’re really living without technology here!” proclaimed one student. All meals were prepared and eaten together. Everyone partook in evening saunas and swimming. Several of the Summit crew went fishing one evening, and then treated the group to a tasty meal of fish, spicy tomato salsa, and fried rice. By Friday, there was no more distinction between ‘the Summit crew’ and ‘the interns.’ That night everyone gathered around a roaring bonfire to celebrate the success of the week and reflect on how much the experience had meant. One student, Joe, mentioned how, on arrival, he had not expected the interns living on the Homestead to be such a tight-knit group. “And now,” he said, “it’s like our group joined yours. It’s a community. A community of us.”
Everyone was sad that the week had to end. Saturday morning the van was packed, and goodbyes were said. On what had once been bare ground less than a week ago now stands a completed cabin shell, ready for finishing. The cabin is a testament to more than just the technical skill of the students of Summit Academy, for it also reflects what a dedicated group of people can accomplish when they come together to focus their talents towards a goal.
Photo: The Crew From Summit: (left to right) Homestead resident Mike, Joe, Boonka, Jess, Summit instructor Beth, Jermaine, Will, Willy-Bob