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Jason Olson, Deseret News
Shannon Rico enters the latest Habitat for Humanity project.

OREM — Eleven-year-old Shannon Rico is looking forward to a bit of peace and tranquility in her family's new home. It was built with the help of Utah Valley State College volunteers and Habitat for Humanity of Utah County.

Shannon's room, which was decorated by the staff of the UVSC president's office, has a Japanese theme. It includes cherry blossom arrangements and her name stenciled on the wall in black, Japanese letters.

"I really love Japanese things. I think it's peaceful and pretty," Shannon said.

The entire Rico family, along with UVSC and Habitat for Humanity representatives, celebrated the completed project Wednesday afternoon. Gerald and Teresa Rico, who have two children, have been renting a two-bedroom duplex in Provo since 1999. The Ricos' new home is west of State Street, on 800 South in Orem. The family plans to move in on Saturday.

Habitat for Humanity is a nondenominational, Christian-based organization that strives to eliminate substandard housing and homelessness by building and renovating houses with the help of volunteers and the eventual homeowners.

This is the 30th house the group has built in 16 years in Utah County. Out of 90 families who attended the orientation meeting last June, only four families were selected for this year's projects, according to Kena Jo Mathews, executive director for Habitat for Humanity of Utah County.

The group is beginning its next round of applications. For information, call 344-8527.

During Wednesday's ceremony, Val Hale, UVSC vice president of institutional advancement, presented a house key to 6-year-old Gerry Rico. "If I give that to you, do you promise not to lose it?" Hale asked. Gerry solemnly nodded.

A few years ago, UVSC President William A. Sederburg learned his alma mater, Minnesota State University Mankato, had built a Habitat for Humanity home. Sederburg and Alexis Palmer, director of UVSC's Volunteer and Service-Learning Center, decided to launch a similar project.

Sederburg said Wednesday that the house-building project not only demonstrates community engagement, but also engaged learning — something the school strives for. "This is a perfect example," he said.

UVSC construction students, under the guidance of associate professor DeWayne Erdmann, built the home. "We just give the students a little bit of direction and then turn them loose, and they do great, great things," Erdmann said.

UVSC also raised approximately $5,000 for the project. Student government sponsored the family in Sub for Santa. Additionally, UVSC plans to donate food from a recent food drive to help the Ricos stock their pantry.

Departments across campus sponsored or decorated rooms in the Rico home, including UV Mentors, the president's office, the drafting department, Career and Student Employment, Wellness Education, Admissions and Registration and the graduation office.

Teresa Rico, addressing the crowd Wednesday, said, "Thank you for building this amazing house."

"It's beautiful," Shannon Rico added.

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