Alta's Kim Piercy and a few hundred students have helped build a better Alta through the construction of 16 new homes over a 17-year-period.
Piercy has been the instructor for the building and trades League of Schools program through Iowa Central Community College. The duplex (which constitutes as two homes) in the 300 block of Buena Vista is the last home he will help with as he will go on to a new adventure to help the community grow.
"It's been fun," he said of the past 17 years. "I thank everyone at ICCC for giving me the opportunity for what I've done. It's been a joy."
The League of Schools gives students from Alta, Storm Lake, Sioux Central, Newell and Schaller-Crestland the opportunity to "get their feet wet" and learn a skill - such as house building (and nursing and auto mechanics to name a few,) from an instructor like Piercy who has such passion for teaching and sharing a trade they love - "and see if this is something they would like to do. These skills are something they can use the rest of their lives." The program is open to juniors and seniors them the opportunity to get out of the text book and have plenty of hands-on experience with hammers, drills, plumbing and electrical equipment, cement and saws.
There is a great deal of satisfaction seeing the empty ground be filled with a house.
"We give them as many hands-on skills as possible. They learn from the hands-on stuff," said Piercy.
In addition the students have the chance to earn high school and college credit.
When the building and trades program began, Piercy was told there must be at least 15 students enrolled to make it successful. After the second year, he said looking back, there were no less than 30 students involved; 40 has been average over the greatest duration of the program with over 30 coming from the Storm Lake school. Piercy has had two two-hour sections - one in the morning and one in the afternoon - working on the houses.
Alta was the perfect match for the program for all these years. It has been said that Piercy who made the program the success it is. He diligently has worked with the Alta Industry Board, who has served as the financial backers for the homes by purchasing the lots, materials and blueprints. In a few cases, the homes have been presold and the owners then have provided all the necessary materials.
The houses are finished with no trims or frills, allowing the purchasers of the house the opportunity to complete the house in the colors and cabinets they choose.
The project has always started at the beginning of the school year, with the goal to have the basement laid, the framing complete and shingling done by winter so the participants can work inside. By the end of the school year a new house stands in the lot.
Piercy remains modest and doesn't want all the credit for the success of the program.
"I was only here to guide and direct and give them a hands-on skill they can use their entire life."
He said he also wanted to thank the schools for providing all the students over the years.
"I hope it has been just as exciting for them as it has for me to see the finished product. I've told them when they are my age they can go past the houses and feel proud and say, 'I helped build that house.'"
He said it is a great feeling knowing they have put up such quality homes.
"I have high expectations of these kids. We don't do shabby work and if we do, we do it over. They've gotta learn the right way."
Before the house is turned over to the new owners, an inspection is completed to make sure everything is up to par as it should be.
Piercy is very pleased with the dedication many of the students have shown; several have gone on to make construction their careers. Some of the students will never go into the construction business, but Piercy is convinced that the students get a well-rounded education on building and can use their knowledge later on in life in smaller projects.
He said he will miss ICCC and has been proud to be associated with the school.
"It is sad to be going but at the same token, this program needs to bring in someone new with new ideas and new skills."
There will be new instructors and a new location next year. Storm Lake will be the sight for the next project.
And next for Piercy?
"My concern is that Alta keeps growing and if I can help that then all the better."
He is teaming up with Alta's Darrell DePrez and House Connections. They have plans to build two houses on Alta's west side within the year.
Piercy grew up in Newell and purchased a house in Alta right after graduation in 1971. He has been here ever since. He and wife Susan raised their family here as well.
Piercy has been in the construction business for just as many years - self employed with K & R Construction, been an owner of Piercy Brothers with brother Kevin and has been shared his talents through his business simply known as Kim's Construction.