This spring, construction management students at Colorado State University (CSU) graduated with more than a degree under their tool belts. They are entering the workforce with construction experience in a community service setting through the CM Cares program. CM Cares, which began in 2010, teaches the importance of community service, leadership, team building and ethics by allowing students to apply classroom skills to real-world projects that benefit a local family or organization. 

A standing committee evaluates requests from families in need of assistance based on construction feasibility and cost, and selects up to five projects each spring for juniors and seniors enrolled in the Undergraduate Leadership Course to complete. To apply to the leadership course, students must provide a recommendation from a professor and meet certain academic criteria. They also must be able to fundraise and complete each project within a semester. The spring 2012 class had 22 students. 

“In only our second year, the program has been extremely successful,” says CM Cares Coordinator Khristy Preston. “It’s really amazing to see the level of community involvement in these projects.” 

So far this year, CM Cares students have installed a ramp and widened the driveway for a Loveland, Colo., family with a 17-year-old boy with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome. Students also built a stairwell enclosure for a domestic violence shelter and assisted an elderly woman with the repair of a covered porch that didn’t meet code requirements.
 
Last year, students completed five projects, including the construction of a two-bedroom addition for a grandmother raising four kids, two of whom have special needs; the design and construction of a greenhouse for a local elementary school; and the construction of a bedroom and handicapped-accessible restroom for a 9-year-old boy named Noah with spinal muscular atrophy. 

Allie Parker, a construction management major and president of Associated Builders and Contractors’ (ABC) student chapter at CSU, served as project coordinator for Noah’s bedroom and bathroom addition. During the year-long effort, Parker and her fellow students raised funds for the project, obtained permits and performed the labor for Noah’s new space. Realizing that the guidance of construction industry veterans would be invaluable, Parker asked ABC member Mortenson Construction, Minneapolis, Minn., to get involved in the community service project while interning with the company during the summer of 2011. 

“The faculty and staff of CM Cares and the professionals at Mortenson Construction were so supportive and generous,” Parker says. “They taught us so much. As students, the fact that we can contribute to the local community is really empowering. I feel so confident graduating knowing I participated in something I’m so proud of.” 

Parker says she looks forward to the day when she can come back as a construction professional and mentor future CM Cares students. 

“ABC is always listening and willing to teach,” she says. “They are patient and eager to help. Whether with construction competitions or with the Noah project, they were ready to answer any questions we had.”