SANFORD — Students who attend Sanford Regional Technical Center are getting a hands-on, real-world learning experience.

They’re helping to build a new office building for Sanford Housing Authority on School Street ”“ literally from the ground up. At a ceremony Monday marking the beginning of the project, two students were working in the foundation of the new office building, and they’ll be doing much more, including carpentry, electrical wiring and, when the building exterior is complete, landscaping. Students who haven’t been involved with the physical building are also playing a role ”“ one student is doing bookkeeping for the project.

Students were involved from the get-go, said Ineliz Rijo, a Marshwood High School student who attends Sanford Regional Technical Center and who served as emcee for Monday’s ceremony.

“We helped design the building,” said Rijo, a drafting student.

The new building will be an 1880s design, to fit in with the surrounding architecture on School Street adjacent to Central Park. Proponents said the arrangement with the technical school could well be the first of its kind in New England.

Everyone involved ”“ contracting consultant, students, teachers, a nonprofit liaison, and housing authority board members and staff ”“ couldn’t be happier.

“It’s great for us, working with the community, it’s relevant to the kids and the community benefits,” said Sanford Regional Technical Center Director Jim Stopa.

“It’s a great project for the school and Sanford Housing Authority,” said SHA Board Chairwoman Faith Ballenger.

Stopa said the Great Works Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit entity that helps coordinate community projects and internships with the school, has been an asset.

“This is a win-win for everyone, for the students and the community,” said Arline Fortier, a member of the Great Works Foundation.

Joe Doiron, a project manager at Sanford Regional Technical Center and the school’s liaison with Great Works Foundation, said the project came about as the housing authority let it be known they were looking for a new office building. A tentative plan to move an existing physician’s office for the purpose didn’t pan out, but the suggestion that students could be involved did, and Great Works Foundation Inc. became the general contractor for the housing authority project. Subcontractors were hired with the proviso that they be willing to work with the students, said Doiron.

Architect for the project is Joy & Hamilton, while Ron Woodward of Petrona, Inc. is construction consultant.

At the groundbreaking, Sanford Housing Authority Director Bill Keefer thanked everyone involved, and pointed out that the agency has been a part of Sanford for 40 years, beginning with 49 units. These days, it oversees seven developments with 412 residents and administers vouchers for 593 people. He pointed out that $3 million was given to landlords in subsidies last year.

SRTC Building Trades Instructor Troy Hathaway thanked the housing authority staff for their vision in involving students and pointed out two who have invested many hours already in the project: Leah Gervsis-Hyde, who plans to enter the construction management field, and Seth Shave, who plans a career in construction and intends to attend community college.

SRTC culinary arts students prepared refreshments for a reception following the ceremony.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, Ext. 327 or [email protected].

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