Variety: Dubuque's HEART Program - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Variety: Dubuque's HEART Program

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- For some, a traditional classroom setting just doesn't work. And often those students fall through the cracks but in Dubuque, one program is opening doors and opportunities for students. It's all thanks to Variety.

Inside this house on Washington Street in Dubuque, a handful of high school students are learning to build.

"We all work together to rebuild. And the students rehabilitate this house," said Justin Breitserecker.

Taking an old rundown rental property. Rehabilitating it and making it like new for a family to live in, while learning skills in the process.

"Learn how to do carpentry, construct, read tape measure, hot to do drywall, cut drywall," said Breitserecker.

It's a part of Four Mounds Housing Education and Rehabilitation Training (HEART). It's a program designed to help students who struggle excelling in a traditional classroom.

"I'm not the type that looks at a book and learns, I gotta be more hands on," said Nathan Smith.

Hands on training, on site, giving real life experience. And opening doors for building to continue.

"It's a great metaphor for building their lives and moving onto adulthood," said Four Mounds Executive Director, Christina Happ Olson.

Students make a commitment at 16 years old, then stay with the program through graduation. After that, many of them received college assistance and find new purpose.

"Without the heart program, I'd be a high school dropout and I don't know where I'd be or what I'd be doing," said Smith.

"It also makes a huge different in the community and an impact on the neighborhoods these students live," said Happ Olson.

Of course none of this would be possible without funding from Variety.

"The trailer that holds the tools. Many of the tools were purchased through grants from Variety," said Happ Olson.

Tools that help this program build homes and skills for the future. In just a few years 43 students have renovated 18 rental properties into owner occupied homes. Heart has been responsible for helping with 43 projects in the Dubuque Area. When students are finished with the program many continue on to college; about half go into something construction related.

Online Reporter: Lauren Squires

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