Weekly Feature



2018-06-07 / Front Page

Modular home headed for auction built by record number of Harkness students

by ALAN RIZZO Reporter


Lancaster High School senior Matthew Nowak, one of 34 seniors in the building trades program at the Harkness Career and Technical Center, stands in front of a modular home he helped build this year. Nowak, who has landed a part-time job with Reusch WoodWorking And Restoration in Elma, said working on the home helped him discover an interest in detail-oriented work. Lancaster High School senior Matthew Nowak, one of 34 seniors in the building trades program at the Harkness Career and Technical Center, stands in front of a modular home he helped build this year. Nowak, who has landed a part-time job with Reusch WoodWorking And Restoration in Elma, said working on the home helped him discover an interest in detail-oriented work. It may be the house that Erie 1 BOCES built, but this year’s student-constructed modular home will soon belong to the highest bidder, at an auction scheduled for June 8.

Crafted by a record 34 seniors in the building trades program at the Harkness Career and Technical Center, this year’s 1,248-square-foot ranch features two bedrooms, one bathroom, a den with a 5-foot computer desk, plus Kraftmade cabinets, custom made countertops, Andersen windows and doors, and 30-year architectural shingles.

With $40,000 spent on materials, building trades instructor Chris Burgio hopes to get at least that much for the home, but said last week that its real value is in what his students have learned building it. Some of them had never picked up a hammer before.


Cheektowaga Central High School senior Noorulhda Muneam, one of 34 seniors in the building trades program at the Harkness Career and Technical Center, lays flooring in a modular home that she and her classmates spent roughly 10,000 hours building this school year. The home will be auctioned off at the center on June 8. 
Photo courtesy of Erie 1 BOCES Cheektowaga Central High School senior Noorulhda Muneam, one of 34 seniors in the building trades program at the Harkness Career and Technical Center, lays flooring in a modular home that she and her classmates spent roughly 10,000 hours building this school year. The home will be auctioned off at the center on June 8. Photo courtesy of Erie 1 BOCES “You really can’t put a price on the education that the kids get out of this,” he said, noting that students spend an estimated 10,000 hours building a house each year from September through June. “We’d just like to get our money back. We’re not in the home-building business. We’re in the student business.”

One member of this year’s crew is Cheektowaga Central High School senior Noorulhda Muneam, who considered the experience valuable for the plumbing practice.

Eager to prove that construction work is not gender specific, she plans to study construction management at Erie Community College and business at SUNY Buffalo State, hoping to own her own contracting business someday.

“I’m really interested in doing hands-on work, being out there and getting involved,” said Muneam, the only female member of the crew, who also said Burgio and her male classmates have treated with respect.

“I enjoy working with them, and they’re helpful,” she said. “I like this class. Mr. Burgio has control over it, and everyone here listens to him. That way we get everything done.”

Maryvale High School senior Nathan Maines, who also plans to attend ECC and pursue a career in commercial building, valued the chance to hone his roofing skills and “working with a ton of people, and getting to know how they work.”

Fellow Maryvale senior Braedon Suffoletta said though he plans to pursue a career in automotive repair, the skills he has gained working on this year’s house have given him the confidence to work on his own home someday.

“I don’t want to pursue a career in building trades, but just knowing all the stuff that I learned, whenever I need to do something on my house, I can do it for myself,” he said, considering framing work particularly enjoyable.

According to Burgio, students at the Harkness Center have been building houses annually for auction since 1998, starting with a $40,000 grant from the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation.

He said auction results have ranged from $30,000 to $52,000, and in recent years homes have been transported to properties in Freedom, Lancaster and Elma to serve as family homes, rental properties or hunting camps.

This year’s auction, run by Tonawanda-based business Cash Realty & Auctions, will take place at 9:30 a.m. Friday, at the Harkness Career and Technical Center, 99 Aero Drive, Cheektowaga.

Burgio said registration will begin at 8:30 a.m., and there is a 10 percent buyer’s premium and $5,000 deposit required for the successful bidder.

According to an Erie 1 BOCES news release, auction proceeds will go toward purchasing building materials for future class projects.

To learn more about the auction, visit www.cashauction.com.

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