Hank Cologne wanted a project for his carpentry students at Hahnville High School that would teach them something about the real world.
Although he wanted the lesson to be in St. Charles Parish, the road led Cologne and his class to Habitat for Humanity to a community in Bayou Region and to a development that came as a surprise.
“I reached out to them because I wanted my class to get a chance to experience that type of program where it operates solely on volunteers,” he said.
With his 15 students, they recently headed to Houma, La.
They went to a community with 30 to 40 homes just off U.S. Highway 90 that had been built for survivors of Hurricane Katrina.
“We were given the task of stripping flooring and prepping for new flooring,” Cologne said. “Also, we pulled down old siding and installed new siding in its place.”
He wanted a real world setting and found it.
Because the students were under 18 years old, the Habitat site coordinator took half the class and Cologne the remaining students to oversee them on the renovation work on two houses.
They had lunch in a house at the rear of the community reserved for volunteers to stay in during work. They were allowed to write their name and school they came from on the wall.
Cologne said they were educated on the community, as well as the park serving as its centerpiece.
After Katrina hit, Oprah Winfrey and a group of people came from New Orleans and reached out to create a place for the displaced to live, he said. They started building “track” or cookie cutter style houses with different colors there. When money ran low for the project, Bon Jovi donated money, which helped build the park and why it’s called “Jon Bon Jovi Boulevard.”
“It went so well, I would like to plan something here in the future,” Cologne said.
On the way back home, the teacher talked to his students so they could reflect on how they felt about what they had just done.
“I was very pleased with what was shared on the bus,” he said. “The students felt, even though it was hot and steamy work, that they felt they made a difference in someone’s life. For me, it was mission accomplished.”
The feeling of accomplishment was impressive considering they did not meet the homeowners, who were out of the residences while the work took place.
Cologne was pleased when his students told him, “We feel like we made a difference today.”