Trading lazy days off during the upcoming fall break for manual labor, 10 high school students in the JTED construction program are traveling to Houston to help families rebuild homes that were damaged by Hurricane Harvey.
"My mom always said we should do things to help others," said Luis Preciado, an 18-year-old senior. "This is a big one so I thought I should go."
The Joint Technical Education District (JTED) is a public high school district with campuses throughout Pima County. It offers tuition-free career and technical education programs to sophomores, juniors and seniors in public, private, charter and home schools. It also serves students who have not earned a diploma or GED and are under the age of 22.
The trip came about when Jim Luckow, JTED's construction instructor, started having conversations about making a difference with his students as the situation in Houston worsened.
"We started talking about it and I said 'would you consider helping?'" Luckow said. "And some kids said 'I'd go.' So I said 'fall break is coming. If I can put a trip together who would go?'"
Luckow put a sign-up sheet on the wall and told the students the first 10 to sign up could go. Eighteen students signed that paper.
"I have family out there and I was thinking if it hit them, I'd want someone to help them," said Aaron Lavandera, a 17-year-old senior. "It's never bad to have too much help."
Since he had more than enough volunteers, Luckow got to planning. The trip couldn't go through the school district, so he ran the idea through his church. As it turned out, the church was sending a group at the same time, which helped in planning where to go work and where they'd stay.
Since it's a volunteer trip, rather than a school trip, Luckow started a gofundme to pay for travel expenses with the goal of raising $6,300. As of Friday afternoon, the goal had been met.
This isn't the first time Luckow has organized a volunteer trip with students. In 2013, he took a group from CDO High School to Oklahoma to help residents rebuild after their town was devastated by a tornado.
"The bottom line is making a difference," Luckow said. "When we went before, we thought we'd show up and make a difference. But what happened is we ended up being blessed by people who lost everything. We were building sheds and they talked about how grateful they are to be alive. It puts in perspective the value of life."
The 10 students from Sunnyside School District's S.T.A.R. Academic High School, along with Luckow will load up in a 15-passenger van on Oct. 8, drive to Texas and work Monday through Friday before heading home.
Tony Razo said he thinks it's going to be sad to see how people have lost everything and have to start over. It's the reason the 18-year-old senior is going.
"It's always good to help someone who needs a helping hand," Razo said.
"It'll be an interesting experience to go and help those that are in need," said Cesar Taddei, an 18-year-old senior. "I'm very excited."
What better time to go help than when on break, is what Jesus Villalobos thought about the idea.
The 17-year-old senior said he took the week off of work to go, and his parents and sisters are proud of his decision to help others.
"It feels good to take time out to help people," added Jesus Mendoza, a 16-year-old junior. "It's a great feeling just to give back."