Changemaker: Enumclaw teacher motivates students to help solve homeless crisis

ENUMCLAW, Wash.-- A local teacher may have found a possible solution to the homeless crisis in our region.

Matt Lorch is here with the story of a changemaker, who is getting the next generation motivated to do something about it.

His name is Bob Kilmer, and he's taking on a problem our elected leaders can't seem to solve.

He's getting his students -- teenagers often called the "selfie, me-first generation" -- engaged and invested in doing their part to get families off the streets and into housing.

That's what the end of the school year sounds like ... at Enumclaw High School.

It's all part of a lesson....

“He’s going to start by peeling back an inch off the top.”

Handed down by construction and architecture teacher Bob Kilmer.

"There has to be things that are bigger than yourself."

That's the sort of wisdom that comes with 33 years of teaching, and the vision behind his big, annual project for his students, which this year required helping out with the homeless crisis.

"There is a need for people that need a leg up, some transitional housing. So I approached the kids with that idea, and said what if we provided that need?"

Like a proud father, he gives us a tour of the tiny home, built almost entirely by his students.

“It was a little bit of a challenge to build," Kilmer said.  “As you walk in here, this is going to be bench seating and storage here.”

Students who, at first, weren't quite sure if they were actually up to it.

“'Really, we’re going to build a house?' No, we’re going to design a house first. Then we’re going to build it. And they were all in," Kilmer said.

They rose to the occasion.

A welding class provided the trailer the home is built on.

Students reached out to a local construction company, which donated most of the materials.

“That’s what we want in every aspect of our life and every aspect of our world," said Rob Gunderson, of Forma Construction, which donated the materials. "The more people doing good, the better off we are.”

“I think that’s one of the nicest things about this is looking out there and seeing your progress," said Enumclaw High student Will Snider. "You can really see what you’ve accomplished.”

Senior Will Snider and his classmates collaborated with kids from Interlake High School in Bellevue, which provided the solar panels and wiring for the home.

“Adults sometimes underestimate the power of teenagers," Interlake High student Youri Babakoff said. "And it’s nice to show, when we come together we can make a difference in the world.”

It's just one of the many lessons ... learned along the way.

“It makes me feel happy that we can bring people and have new houses for them and living quarters for them to stay in instead of staying out on the streets," Enumclaw High student Elise Pratt said.

“My work is actually going to something other than just my grade. It’s actually going somewhere out in the community for everyone," Snider added.

“It’s got Will’s name on it. It’s got every kid in this classroom’s name on it. I want kids to take that away," Kilmer said.

“Mr. Kilmer is an amazing teacher.”

It's not just his students who recognize it.

Harbor Freight Tools awarded Kilmer and Enumclaw High a $100,000 prize for teaching excellence.

It's confirmation of the impact he's having on these kids.

“Those are the people who made a difference in my life, quality teachers that cared, so...," Kilmer said as he got emotional.

A lifetime of commitment to kids. Now, building a foundation for the future.

“Kids and adults working together, to provide a leg up in a smaller community. What could be better?"

So we honor Bob Kilmer as a true changemaker in our community.

And this is part of a bigger movement. Just last week, 400 workers from Paul Allen's Vulcan company helped build tiny homes for the homeless.

If you'd like to volunteer your time and build tiny house for transitional housing, go to: https://lihi.org/tiny-houses/