Weber State student designs Habitat for Humanity house for fellow student

Friday , April 21, 2017 - 5:00 AM3 comments

ANNA BURLESON, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — Travis Parsons is finally going to have a place to call home.

A 51-year-old Weber State University student and veteran of the First Gulf War, Parsons will be the recipient of a Habitat for Humanity house.

“I still can’t believe it’s really happening, and I probably won’t until I get the keys in my actual hands and the house is done,” Parsons said. “It just seems like one of those things that’s too good to be true.”

It all began with Jeremy Farner, who has worked with Habitat for Humanity for about 2 1/2 years and is now the construction committee chairman.

Farner also teaches architectural engineering at Weber State and decided to incorporate a Habitat for Humanity house design project into his class.

“This was unique in that my students had a real client, a real project,” he said.

Of the many designs submitted, the one that was selected was created by Solomone Tuifua.

“What I liked about it was, it was a challenge for me to be able to do a project for somebody,” Tuifua said. “It wasn’t just about what I like, it was catered to the client.”

Parsons said he joined the military as a teenager when he was a student at Roy High School. He said he graduated one day, was married the next, and put on a plane to begin his 20-year military career in the Army and Air Force the day after that.

After leaving the military, Parsons traveled the country for about a decade as a general contractor and construction worker for military bases. During that time, he lived out of his camp trailer.

While in the military, Parsons said he was injured many times. He has broken both of his knees more than once, as well as his feet. Parsons said those injuries are starting to catch up with him, so he decided to pursue an education to find a job in the white-collar world.

“Now when I get out of bed, it’s snap, crackle, pop and there’s no cereal involved,” he said, laughing.

Parsons, now divorced, is still living in what he called “an old hunk of junk camp trailer” and parks it in his mother’s backyard. He was introduced to Habitat for Humanity and never thought he would be selected, but he applied anyway.

“I still can’t believe it,” Parsons said.

The house will be built off 30th Street in Ogden, has about 1,080 square feet with two bedrooms, one bathroom and a basement. Based on previous builds, Farner said, the house is worth roughly $130,000.

Tuifua said he tried to personalize the design for Parsons by adding a small mud room with a dog bath station for his companion and therapy dog, a 130-pound English bullmastiff named June Bug.

“In my head, I was thinking if my dog was dirty, I would come through the back door and wash him before coming through the house,” Tuifua said.

Parsons said June Bug was rescued from a puppy mill and spent much of her life in a small cage as a breeder. She had been returned to a shelter several times before Parsons adopted her, but now as a companion and therapy dog, she is headed toward being certified as a service dog.

“She saved me as much as I saved her,” Parsons said.

Another of Farner’s students has designed a Habitat for Humanity house next to Parsons’ house for her senior project. Farner said construction will commence on both once the city permits are signed. Parsons said he thinks that will happen sometime in April.

Parsons is studying manufacturing engineering technology and working as a work study student in Veterans Services. He even brings June Bug to work.

“Just being at the office and helping other students is super beneficial for me,” he said. “I really enjoy helping people out.”

He has another two years left at Weber State and has plans to work as an electrical engineer at Hill Air Force Base because Parsons’ years of military service will count toward retirement.

Contact education reporter Anna Burleson at aburleson@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnagatorB or like her on Facebook at Facebook.com/BurlesonReports.

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