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21-Year-Old Helps Build House Where He Becomes A First-Generation Homeowner

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BuildUP executive director James Sutton, left, and 21-year-old homeowner Torrey Washington outside Washington's new dwelling in the Ensley community. (Nicole S. Daniel, The Birmingham Times.

By Nicole S. Daniel

The Birmingham Times

On Thursday, Torrey Washington, 21, a BuildUP Community School graduate, became the school’s first homeowner. Even more impressive, Washington is a first-generation homeowner and as a student, he helped rehab the house that he will now own in the Ensley community.

“This feels amazing and unreal. Most of my life I’ve heard people talked about being a homeowner but, I guess I just didn’t have the maturity to really think and process the importance of being a homeowner until I went to BuildUP. Even when I went there it didn’t feel real then and it still doesn’t feel real now,” Washington said.

BuildUP Community School is a private workforce development high school that equips students with knowledge and skills for high-demand, high paying careers in trade jobs over a six year period.

Being the youngest in his family and the first to own a home is an incredible feeling, he said.

“I hope that my other siblings will be able to go out and do what they want to do and become homeowners someday,” he said. “I just feel really happy … It makes me feel great. “

“We could not be more proud of Torrey and his accomplishments,” said James Sutton, BuildUP executive director. “He has overcome many challenges, not the least of which was a global pandemic that forced him and other students to attend school virtually.”

During high school, students work on BuildUP-managed or owned properties to gain practical experience in demolition, wall framing, electrical or cabinet installation.

“Torrey was one of BuildUP’s first students who was with us when we met in a 3-bedroom house in Ensley,” said Mark Martin, BuildUP’s founder. “Torrey is one of our brightest students and it makes sense that he’s the first to reach this milestone.”

“I had never thought about a job in construction,” Torrey said, “but my mom and I met Mr. [Mark] Martin and enrolled in the summer bootcamp. The school exposed me to a lot of different things and the teachers pushed me to be responsible and grow up in ways I really needed. It was one of the best experiences of my life.”

Torrey is now employed at BLOX as an HVAC specialist helping to build innovative, modular structures that are transported and assembled on site.

Sutton said BuildUP is now enrolling rising 9th and 10th grade students for the 2023-2024 school year.

For more information, visit www.buildup.work or call 205-847-4086.