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PAC program builds student skills from the ground up

Published December 22, 2023

When it comes to hands-on learning, it’s hard to top the foundation-to-rooftop and everything-in-between experience that District 214 students gain through the Practical Architecture Construction (PAC) program.

Now in its 52nd year, PAC originated as a six-week summer program. Students learned construction concepts and applications through lab-based prefabrication projects. In the mid-80’s, PAC shifted to a home construction program, in which students built a new single-family home every two years.

Today, the focus is on renovation, with students performing remarkable transformations of homes and garages. From September through December, this year’s PAC students constructed a detached 2-vehicle garage. 

As a starting point, professional contractors razed an old garage and poured a new foundation. Students and their instructors have taken it from there. They started with framing and then proceeded to install house wrap and windows, set roof trusses in place, add plywood, attach roofing shingles and, finally, cut and install siding.

All along the way, instructors have guided students on the proper use of tools, measuring, following blueprints and - of course - safety protocols.

PAC welcomes all students regardless of previous experience. “We have one student who actually installs windows as a job; we have others who have never picked up a hammer before,” noted program supervisor Chuck Jurasek.

“What’s great about what happens here,” added instructor Edward Suh, “is that we have experienced students helping out the beginners; it becomes a peer mentoring situation.”

PAC projects inevitably produce skills and pride. Suh said, “Having built this garage from the ground up really gives students excitement and motivates them to keep working and possibly pursue a career in the trades. At the end of the day, at the end of the week, they get to stand back and see what they built with their own hands.”

Equally important, PAC prepares students for employment opportunities. Jurasek lauded Pella Windows as a program partner and said, “They’re hiring; some of our students are in a pipeline straight to the workforce.”

To see more on the PAC House project, check out our !