YALAHA — The Leesburg High School Construction Academy joined Lake-Sumter Habitat for Humanity Friday in fixing up three homes in Yalaha.

It was the first time students worked on a construction project off campus, and it gave them a chance to use the carpentry skills they learned at the academy in a real-world application with real-world consequences.

Dan McAuley, the academy instructor, said the students were taking it more seriously than any other project.

“When they’re in the classroom environment, they want to goof off or do whatever. It changed when they got out here,” he said.

Between 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. they built two fences, a wheelchair ramp and a deck.

“What we're doing is a block party,” Travis Wofford of Habitat for Humanity explained. “We pick six houses, and this lady is getting a ramp.”

Lynnea Weissman, the academy’s grant manager, said it was exciting to have students take on a challenge in the field.

“I remember at the beginning of the year some of the freshmen didn’t even know how to use a tape measure,” she said. “Now, they are doing this. It’s very exciting.”

The Construction Academy has made a big push to get its students practical work this year after an $866,000 grant from the state allowed them to revamp the program and purchase top-of-the-line tools and equipment.

Students got busy within the first month, making picnic tables for the LHS cafeteria and setting up a commission system for area residents to buy hand-built furniture.

A partnership with the Academy of Construction Technologies in Orlando will ensure continued education and practice, with companies ready to provide internships over the summer.

The program focuses on a certification in carpentry, but also provides training in plumbing, masonry and electrical trades.