Linn-Mar Student Stumbles Into Passion For Construction

Not everyone is lucky enough to stumble across their passion in life as early on as a recent Linn-Mar graduate. While planning for senior year courses, Nathan Willhite had intended to pursue a degree in Criminal Justice beyond high school until he noticed a class called “Building Trades” in the course catalogue. Upon further investigation, Willhite was approved to enroll for the yearlong class that would lead to a total upheaval in his future plans.

Building Trades is a class that unites both Linn-Mar and Marion high school students and has been in partnership for the past 27 years. Each year the class builds a home and students learn about drywall, framing, electrical and plumbing. The lot the home sits on was donated by the City of Marion and is adjacent to an additional lot that will be used during the 2018-19 school year.

Willhite had such a positive experience that he plans to pursue a degree in Construction Engineering at Iowa State University this fall. “Once we started actually building the house, I knew this was a future I wanted for myself,” says Willhite.

According to a recent Gallup poll, the number one attribute businesses want in an employee is that they have had a job experience, internship or job shadow. Students are also more engaged in their coursework after understanding what their career pursuit is like hands-on.

Willhite’s experience in class led to a summer job with MEDCO investor, Woodruff Construction. Nathan is spending each day doing something different such as hanging plywood, cleaning up sheds, remodeling a bathroom and described a recent task that he was able to frame walls by himself in a future nail salon. “Before the Building Trades class, I wouldn’t of known how to do that.”

Nathan’s story demonstrates everything that Community Promise is on a mission to accomplish. Community Promise capitalizes on career exposure and experiences that lead to authentic career pursuit. High demand careers are promoted on and go beyond a title and paycheck. We’re educating both students and parents about required training, benefits received, and even advancement opportunities within local industry. Learn more about this initiative at

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 The home begins to take shape in the fall of 2017.  The home on 5th avenue in Marion was completed May 2018