Another brand new home has been designed and constructed by Hawaiʻi Community College students in Hilo, Hawaiʻi.

This is the 46th home built by the college since the school launched its Model Home Program in 1965. The best part of the program, according to students and organizers: the annual ceremony where the house keys are officially turned over to the new homeowner.

“Oh it felt great,” said Fred Palea, the lucky Hawaiian Home Lands lessee right after he walked into his new home for the first time. “I am really ecstatic and excited about this house and it feels warm, welcoming, and I think our family is really going to enjoy this house.”

The three-bedroom, two-bath, 1,800-square-foot home includes a carport, solar water heating, a photovoltaic system, landscaping with native plants and an aquaponics garden.

It is all thanks to the hard work of more than 70 Hawaiʻi CC students from a wide range of programs offered at the college—drafting, carpentry, electrical, agriculture, welding and diesel mechanics.

“I have been working real hard for this day, waiting for it to come,” said Hawaiʻi CC carpentry student Jacob Ramos. “We learn everything on this house, everything from foundation to finish.”

“We never get to meet the family until today,” added Kiliona Young, a Hawaiʻi CC agriculture student. “But you know, they were just thoughts in our head. So all of the things we did, we were imagining this family, then today they get to turn it over and to be part of a big event like this, it was an honor.”

More than 2,700 students have participated in the Model Home Program over the years, gaining valuable on-the-job experience.

“The contractors that hire them, they always come back and they always comment to us, you know the students and how confident they are,” said Hawaiʻi CC carpentry professor Gene Harada. “And that’s what we are trying to do for them.”

Creating affordable housing is a key component of the program, a partnership between Hawaiʻi Community College and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. The home designed and constructed by the students in 2013 would have cost close to $300,000 to build, but thanks to the Model Home Program, it cost $186,000, according to Harada.

“It’s a very good win-win for us,” said Darrell Young of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. “We act as the developer and the students act as our construction labor and it gives them an opportunity to have a trade.”

And every year, it gives a local family an opportunity to turn the dream of owning a home into a reality.

“I couldn’t dream that they could have done this but it’s excellent,” said Palea. “And I know we have good tradesmen that’s coming up in the future.”

Hawaiʻi CC students will begin work on home number 47 in the 2013 fall semester.