The project is an annual tradition during Raider Welcome Week and allows new and returning students one of their first chances to give back to the Lubbock community.
Just a few days after they moved into residence halls on the Texas Tech University campus, more than 140 new and returning Red Raiders spent a total of 424 hours helping build a house for a local family. The weeklong project is an annual Raider Welcome Week tradition, organized by University Student Housing and Lubbock Habitat for Humanity.
Each day, the groups of students from residence halls across campus spent four hours in the morning or afternoon helping with the build. John McAvoy, assistant director for training and development in University Student Housing, said the project has been a tradition for about 10 years and there are usually between 15 and 20 students that help during each four-hour block.
The first group this year included 37 students, some who had just moved in the previous day after driving eight hours or more from their hometowns.
"They're excited to be here," McAvoy said. "They want to get involved in the community and meet fellow first-year students. I think the turnout shows students want to help."
When the students arrived at 9 a.m. Monday morning (Aug. 21), the only part of the house completed was the concrete foundation slab. Except for Wednesday, when rain made the build site too wet for work, students spent each day of the week preparing the slab and then raising the walls of the house.
"They were tremendous," said Marie Hanza, executive director for Lubbock Habitat for Humanity. "We have an excellent relationship with Texas Tech and the students, and we couldn't get a lot of the build done without them."
Homeowners Adrian and Eppie Rojas were on-site to welcome the first group of students and help with the build throughout the week. The couple and their three children, Aramis, 16, Ethan, 12, and Ella, 3, will move into the house once it's completed, sometime after the beginning of 2018. They said they were grateful for the students' work.
"It's just amazing that they would take this time just to come build our house," Eppie Rojas said. "We're just blessed that they have the heart to do it and that they want to do it."
The house is a chance for the Rojas family to finally own a home of their own after a lifetime of renting. Adrian Rojas said he'd had difficulty finding a realtor willing to sell to him. After learning about the program through Habitat for Humanity, they applied and were accepted, then began homeowner education classes and helping on builds for other families.
Owning their own home instead of renting someone else's house will be a big change.
"It means it's yours," he said. "We can customize it to our lifestyle, to our family, to our needs."
The site of the house in East Lubbock is also special to the family for a few other reasons.
"My mother lives on the corner," Adrian Rojas said. "This was my uncle's lot and I grew up in this neighborhood. It's quiet and the city of Lubbock has cleaned a lot of it up. You can see the sky."
Being able to meet the people who will live in the house was something students at the build said they enjoyed. It was the second year Ian Kadleck, a sophomore electronic media and communication major from Fort Worth, helped build a house during Raider Welcome Week. While he enjoyed working with new tools, there was more to his decision to return this year.
"I really enjoyed working with this group and helping the families," Kadleck said. "It's really cool to see the community coming together and helping out when help is needed. It's worth coming out and helping to everyone involved."
McAvoy said getting students out for projects like this is important to their development as Red Raiders.
"Sometimes the campus can be a bubble," McAvoy said. "Getting out into the community, getting out to assist in building a house for a family that may be more in need than they are, shows them there are a lot of different types of individuals in the Lubbock community."
It's also a way to show the community the many aspects of being a student at Texas
"Our students aren't just here to party, they're not here just to get an education," McAvoy said. "They're here to give back to Lubbock and this is a great way to do it."
Hanza said the work the students completed is the beginning of the end for the Rojas family. They've been an excellent family to work with, she added, both on their own dream of owning a home and on making that dream a reality for fellow Habitat for Humanity families.
"It's the end of the process where, when they come out of the other side, we're going to close on the house and turn over the keys and they're going to become homeowners," Hanza said. "They're very focused. They know what they want and they've dedicated themselves to making it happen."
The great thing about engaging Texas Tech students as soon as they arrive on campus is the possibility of a continuation of that work throughout the year, Hanza said. Many will work on the Rojas' house until it is complete.
"The student groups are very good about coming out on weekends and helping us continue the build," Hanza said. "Whether they're Texas Tech students or other volunteers, these are the individuals that help us get these houses built and get them built affordably. It's very important."