ROCKLAND COUNTY, N.Y. -- Tiny houses might be all the rage on HGTV, but for a Chestnut Ridge teen, the itty, bitty homes are a way for him to make a difference about two things he is passionate about -- people in need and the environment.
That's why Matthew Olson, 18, a senior at Green Meadow Waldorf School is building the first of what he hopes are many tiny houses as part of his required senior project.
"I came up with the idea last summer when I was learning a lot about the issues with climate change and the unsettled atmosphere in the country over the election," Olson said. "I wanted my project to be something that would help others less fortunate, as well as the environment."
The 80-square-foot tiny house can be found sitting in the driveway of the family home. The outside is complete, and the inside has wiring and plumbing, but the finishing touches still need to be put on the interior before it is donated to the Fellowship Community, a local nonprofit, that will use it to house interns working with the elderly.
Olson, who is headed to Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, to study commerce in the fall, said he kept coming back to tiny houses when researching his senior project.
"I had heard about them on social media and seen the TV show a couple of times, so I thought why not do something totally different that is mixed with something I love to do," Olson said.
He says he really owes his success with the project to his Mom who told him if he really cared enough about something there was a lot of money and people in the world who would hop on board if he could prove his idea was important.
So that's what he did. He went where all Millennials worth their salt head for -- social media and a GoFundMe page .
Literally, within hours, Olson had the $6,000 he figured he needed to build his first tiny house:"It was an incredible thing to watch happen," he said.
But before he could start building he took his drawing, which he says laughing looked like a box with a triangle roof to local architect Michael Scharff, for help, and in hopes that he would be his mentor for the project.
Scharff agreed and in a short amount of time under the skilled hand of the long-time architect the tall house with the triangle roof became a real house with lots of windows to let in plenty of light and a loft for sleeping, a real thing of beauty, Olson said.
But before the drawings could become a reality, Olson and his friends and his family and anyone else who would swing a hammer had hours and hours of work before them.
"We worked in snow and in rain," he said. "It was crazy and so tiring and so much work, but I've never been afraid of working hard and neither is my family and we got it done."
Now that the project is almost finished, the teen who said he loves sports of any kind and is always skateboarding, skiing or playing soccer, said he is hoping that he receives a passing grade on his project.
"It's either pass or fail," he said. "I presented it last week and think it went over well."
But pass or fail, Olson said he learned that you can always do more than you think you can.
"I'm incredibly lucky to have the life I have," he said. "I hope this house really helps someone and others will like the idea and keep building tiny houses to help those in need and to help reduce our carbon footprint."