Crispus Attucks students build an education in York City


Looking at them from the front, one might not guess the interiors of 22-30 W. Boundary Ave. are in the process of a radical transformation, and their guts are starting to pile up behind them.

The windows are boarded up, and two signs forbid firefighters from entering the houses in case of a fire.

Over the next three years, students at the Crispus Attucks Charter School, which is associated with YouthBuild and Ameri-Corps, will turn the five connected houses into one freestanding house and two homes that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, combining two pairs of houses.

"What we've found is that there's a need for larger family homes, and ADA-accessible homes, for families that have members of their extended family living with them," Crispus Attucks' Community Development Director Carol Kauffman said recently.

Crispus Attucks bought three of the five connected houses from the York City Redevelopment Authority, Kauffman said. Another was donated, and one was purchased from the previous owner.

"Crispus Attucks is one of our partners in addressing blight. They don't have a large volume, but they definitely help," said Shilvosky Buffaloe, the city's interim director of economic and community development.

Smells like new: The city sold Crispus Attucks a property at 605 Cleveland Ave., just down the street from the Boundary Avenue properties.

It was in similar shape to the five connected houses before students worked on it, Kauffman said. The house, which Kauffman said probably dates back to the early 1900s, has a bright interior and smells brand new. Once appliances are installed, a family can move in.

Students at the Crispus Attucks school spend about half of their time in the classroom and the other half at various job sites in the community.

They create affordable housing and work on projects to otherwise enhance the community.

Students are working on what will be the new distribution center of the York County Food Bank, a building on East King Street that was formerly a call center.

The program: The Crispus Attucks Charter School is a one-year program for students from "high-risk environments," said principal Michael Goc.

Most have experienced trauma, and some have dropped out of school, he said.

No matter how many high school credits students arrive with, if they pass all of their classes and tests, they will graduate by the end of the year.

Starting over: Katelynn Torres, 19, was recently in her second week back at school since dropping out in 10th grade.

Torres ended up leaving school after she moved to North Carolina and then got pregnant. She lived with her son's father for a while, then moved back to York, she said.

With her mother watching her young children during the day, Torres is happy to be on the road to graduation.

"Both my brothers graduated from here," she said. "I wanted to finish school so my kids would look up to me."

Emma Bourdoin, 17, was in a vocational-technical program before she started at Crispus Attucks. She liked the technical training she was receiving and would still like to pursue a career as a dental hygienist, but school wasn't going well for her because English isn't her first language.

Crispus Attucks is "more comfortable," she said. "In this school, they focus on you and care about you."

And she likes the idea behind the program.

"At the work site, we come together, we communicate and make plans together. ... We be as one," she said.

— Reach Julia Scheib at