Darryl Adkins considered his new vantage point as he surveyed the concrete blocks that would support the framing for the new Habitat home.
"In the past, I was breaking into houses. Now I can help build one for someone else," he said.
The 17-year-old from Rock Hill is among a group of youths who will begin construction next week on a new house as part of the Department of Juvenile Justice's first Habitat House build. The house will be partially built inside the fence of the Broad River Road detention facility, then lifted over the fence for the final work at its new location. The early work will be done entirely by incarcerated youths at DJJ.
Adkins and other DJJ youths joined staff members, Friends of Juvenile Justice and Central South Carolina Habitat for Humanity for the "First Nail" ceremony Friday morning marking the start of construction.
"We're building a house," DJJ director Margaret Barber told several hundred gathered at DJJ's Broad River Road Complex where framing for the home will be completed.
The effort is designed to give DJJ youths job skills while providing a home for a Columbia-area family through Habitat for Humanity.
The framing will begin Monday and is expected to be finished before Christmas.
Once framed, the house will be transported to its permanent location early next year, when youths under DJJ supervision in the community will work alongside professionals and other volunteers to complete the interior trim, painting, landscaping and other finishing touches. The volunteers will be joined by a Columbia woman who has been selected to receive the home and who will live there with her teenage son.
"This is the first of many houses," Barber said. "Let our kids build a house behind the fence. Let our kids give back to our community."
Friday's ceremony ended with DJJ staff members, youths and others hammering the first nails.
Adkins, joined by two other DJJ youths - William Starks and Meghan Harding - said he was eager for the actual work to start.
"It just feels good to do something for somebody else," he said, adding that he's most looking forward to two things. "One is learning a trade. And at the same time we're learning, we can give back to the community and develop employment skills."
That's a combination Barber feels is invaluable.
"We look upon our partnership with Habitat as building houses, rebuilding communities and reclaiming youth who are on the brink of re-entering society," she said.