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American Fork High School students, teachers build playhouse for Festival of Trees

Students and teachers at American Fork High School have been working hard this fall to build a playhouse sponsored by Oakwood Homes to auction off at the Festival of Trees.

“We really wanted to just give back to the community in a unique way,” said Michelle Byrge, director of marketing for Oakwood Homes. “We felt like this was giving back to our homebuyers, giving back to our community and building a platform for kids who want to learn a little bit more about our industry. This was an exciting project for us.”

Oakwood Homes aims to sponsor a community service project once a month, with bigger projects about once a year, Byrge said. Employees were excited to sponsor the playhouse because they wanted to help students in the area learn about the homebuilding industry while giving back to Primary Children’s Hospital.

Oakwood Homes approached Chris Griesemer, the CTE program area specialist for the Alpine School District, who then offered the project to 13 different schools in the area. In addition to paying for the supplies, Oakwood Homes offered a stipend when the playhouse was done. Wendy Frazier-Snyder, a digital photography teacher at American Fork High School, took on the project with hopes of being able to pay her students' Skills USA club fees with the stipend.

“I had a very limited scope at the beginning of the project, which was I just want to get the kids taken care of financially,” Frazier-Snyder said. “But really what’s come of this is … contributing to the community at large. The project is much bigger of a scope than I had anticipated. … The payoff is going to be greater than what we are putting into it.”

Frazier-Snyder said that a “hodge-podge” group of people with “really diverse interests and expertise” came together to work on the project. The team is made up of Frazier-Snyder as well as a videography teacher, a commercial arts teacher, a woodshop teacher and about 15 students.

“This has been a great opportunity for me to prepare myself for leading others and managing quite a few projects. It’s been great to help me prepare for (club) competitions, and eventually the workforce,” said Josh Lefler, the student project manager on the playhouse team.

The team started building the playhouse in September and completed it around the end of November, working on the playhouse for about an hour and a half each week.

“What’s cool about the weirdness of our kind of hodge-podge group is that woodworking students and the photo students and the video students are doing the build, and … then we’re transitioning to the commercial arts students who are doing the painting and the designing and the styling,” Frazier-Snyder said. “It’s actually turned into a really great, pulling-from-every-resource kind of group.”

Frazier-Snyder said her students are excited to have their work showcased at the Festival of Trees, and they are even happier that it’s contributing to a great cause. Knowing that, she says, has helped them power through some of the more difficult parts of the project.

The community can see American Fork High School’s completed playhouse at the Festival of Trees, Nov. 30-Dec. 3, at the South Towne Expo Center. On Nov. 29 from 5-10 p.m., the Festival of Trees will auction off all the trees, wreaths and other items, including the playhouse constructed by American Fork High School, with all the proceeds going to Primary Children’s Hospital. The auction is open to the public, and tickets can be purchased for $40. Tickets include admission for two adults, a bid number and food at the event. For more information, visit festivaloftreesutah.org.

Email: madison.swensen@gmail.com