WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — A construction crew is hard at work transforming a home in Winston-Salem’s Boston-Thurmond neighborhood. 

The house on Underwood Avenue is a learning lab for The Do School. It offers participants paid, hands-on training in construction so they can get a job that pays a livable wage.

John Lenham, the chairman of the nonprofit’s board of directors, says there’s a focus on getting people involved who have difficulty finding work because of their past.

“People that come from a background and maybe have a criminal record are not able to get the opportunities to work, even in the construction trade,” Lenham said. “However, the construction trade is very open to those people if they can come in with some experience.”

Lenham says the collaborative model they use allows candidates to learn the skills they need to get hired and gives contractors the first chance at bringing on new talent.

“Not only are they partnering with us to bring materials and experience and equipment to the job, but in the grand scheme they will also have the first shot at hiring on these people that are going through the training,” Lenham said.

Kodjo Thon is going through the program after a former high school teacher recommended it. He has learned everything from putting down floors to fixing doorknobs. He plans to graduate from The Do School and use what he’s learned to work in real estate.

“My mom asks me to fix a whole bunch of stuff like cabinets, shower racks, everything. So, like, everything I learn here, I take it to my real-life experiences at home, also,” Thon said.

Jerry Anderson had the idea for The Do School after seeing the need for more economic opportunities in underserved areas as a business owner. The Winston-Salem Foundation helped secure funding to buy the house to renovate, and a grant from the Black Philanthropy Initiative helps The Do School pay trainees for their work.

“That has enabled us to get really quality candidates who are committed to learning and doing a really good job,” Anderson said.

The pilot program began in November 2021. Six months later, Anderson says progress is right on track. Once work on the house on Underwood Avenue is complete, it will be sold to a first-time homeowner.

“This house that we’re working on right now was perhaps the eyesore of the community. So we get an opportunity to take a house that was in really bad repair and use that house as a teaching tool so that our young men and women who come into the program will get every possible experience in rehab,” Anderson said.

You can find more information on the do school at www.thedo-school.org or by calling (336) 934-1295.