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Built by Mavericks

WCCC student's design selected for Habitat for Humanity home

A Grand Junction man went back to school at age 36 to upgrade his own employment prospects, and wound up making a small slice of life better for a local family in need along the way.

A design by Michael Ramsden became the blueprint for a Habitat for Humanity home to be built this spring with the help of CMU and WCCC students, faculty and staff volunteers.

Ramsden, who recently graduated with an Architectural Drafting credential, combined newly-acquired skills in computer-aided designs (CAD) with 10 years of his own experience in the construction industry to design a unique floorplan for what soon will become a new home for the family of a first-generation CMU student.

Ramsden and WCCC classmate Chloe Miller submitted winning designs for a project called “Built by Mavericks,” a competition that also awarded both students $500.

Ramsden and his wife, Katie, donated their winnings to the family that will receive the house he designed.

“We just decided that the $500 was probably more important to the family than it was to us,” he said.

Prior to enrolling at WCCC, Ramsden’s post-high school education consisted of one year of college, plus a five-year apprenticeship in fire-prevention sprinkler design. But returning to school has always been a consideration, he said, and the tipping point came last summer while he was working full-time installing a sprinkler system at a hospital in Vail – two and a half hours from his home.

“I was at that jobsite for more than a year, and finally told myself, ‘I can’t keep doing this’,” said Ramsden, who unsuccessfully lobbied his bosses about becoming a system designer (less travel, better pay), rather than an onsite installer.

“I think they considered me more valuable out in the field,” he said of the Denver-based company that was employing him at the time. “I knew I had to change something, and decided to sign up at WCCC, which had the kind of classes I was looking for.”

Two semesters studying with Michael Mahoney, WCCC technical instructor of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), included the computer-aided design training Ramsden used to create his Habitat for Humanity blueprint.

“The classes were interesting, and also had an interesting mix of students, basically high school-age kids on up. One gentleman in class was in his late 60s,” he said. “I’m sure it was quite a challenge for Mr. Mahoney to teach such a wide-ranging group of students, but he was great.”

Ramsden says he felt proud, but not altogether surprised, that his design was selected for the Habitat home. A decade of construction experience, along with strict guidelines (square footage, cost-efficiency, etc.) provided by Habitat for Humanity, made his task easier, he said.

“I definitely realized that there were students in the class who could operate the software better and do more-detailed work, but I also felt like nobody in the room had my construction background,” said Ramsden, who had never previously designed a house.

And Mahoney provided additional insight when he took the class to a visit a Habitat for Humanity home that was under construction to learn more about the organization’s rigid design requirements.

Ramsden is now a full-time designer of fire-prevention sprinkler systems for a new company (a job Mahoney helped him find) but hopes to personally pound a few nails during the construction process.

“I’m going to try to get out there and volunteer if I can find time away from my job, which, so far, is keeping me very busy,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll be able balance everything and contribute to the project when the time comes.”

When the job is completed, Ramsden expects to feel fulfilled each time he drives past the home he helped create for a family in need.

Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Mesa Laurel Cole expressed optimism that Habitat’s relationship with the WCCC and CMU communities will continue.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with our local students to help increase awareness around the need for affordable homeownership opportunities in our community, while providing real-life and hands-on experience for the students,” Cole said. “We hope this collaboration will continue to grow, and we look forward to involving a younger generation in getting one step closer to closing the affordable-housing gap.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the “Built by Mavericks” project may contact Mesa County’s Habitat for Humanity office at 970.255.9850 or


Written by Dennis Taylor