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Teens build intricate 'Gingerbread Cathedral' to get out of writing essay

When senior students Ethan Williams, Namoa Tuikolongahau and James Southworth were assigned to either write a three-page paper or create a gingerbread house, they created something even bigger.

When senior students Ethan Williams, Namoa Tuikolongahau and James Southworth were assigned to either write a three-page paper or create a gingerbread house, they created something even bigger. (Southworth family)


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SOUTH JORDAN — Three teens at Bingham High School made an especially festive gingerbread creation, of towering proportions.

When senior students Ethan Williams, Namoa Tuikolongahau and James Southworth were assigned by their personal finance teacher to either complete a large multiple choice test, write a three-page essay on how to start a mortgage, or build a gingerbread house, the decision was simple.

"We're like, 'Easy, we'll just go to Costco and pick up a little gingerbread,'" Southworth said, "And then when he said the requirements, we're like, 'Oh no, we're making this big.'"

All of the boys agreed that when they started, they had no idea it would turn out as big as it did.

"Obviously everyone had the idea of (making) a gingerbread house, so we were like, 'Let's do something big!' So we're thinking like (the) Taj Mahal or the Russian Cathedral but Ethan had the idea," Southworth said.

"Last year I was given the opportunity to go on an American Sign Language trip to Washington, D.C., and we got to visit the National Cathedral and I just fell in love with it there, with all the architecture and everything," Ethan Williams said.

And with that, the cathedral idea was born.

"Teacher just said, has to fit through the doorway and has to be mostly edible," Southworth said. "As soon as we heard that we were like, 'let's max this out.'"

Three teens at Bingham High School made an especially festive gingerbread creation, of towering proportions.
Three teens at Bingham High School made an especially festive gingerbread creation, of towering proportions. (Photo: Southworth family)

"I didn't think it was that crazy. I didn't think it was going to be that big either. I thought we were going to make a miniature one until I saw the foundation that was created. I was blown away." Tuikolongahau said.

Ethan Williams' mother, Julie Williams, said she was excited when she heard about the project.

"I was totally excited because that's my jam," Julie Williams said. "I didn't realize the scale and how much it was going to be, how many pounds of frosting I would have to make, and how many boxes of graham crackers I would have to buy."

Ethan Williams' father is a contractor, and the teen said he learned a lot of the woodworking skills from working with his dad.

"Obviously we had to gather our materials first and cut wood to certain lengths, but we had to mark out on plywood first so we knew how the structure would go and how the building was shaped and everything. Once that happened then we started building up and getting the roof angles and all the spires on there," Williams said.

"That and some hot glue to hold the graham crackers in place are all that's inedible," Julie Williams said.

Three teens at Bingham High School made an especially festive gingerbread creation, of towering proportions.
Three teens at Bingham High School made an especially festive gingerbread creation, of towering proportions. (Photo: Southworth family)

Then they began to attach the exterior graham crackers — which are cheaper in bulk than gingerbread, they explained.

"We were going to make the biggest one so we have like no competition, but we didn't realize it was going to be like ... that big," Southworth said.

The cathedral features a number of treats on its exterior including graham crackers, frosting, pretzels, chocolates, Hershey kisses, Sixlets, Jolly Ranchers and gumdrops.

"I couldn't give you hours, but it took us about nine days to build it and on the tenth day we moved it in," Ethan Williams said.

"My favorite part was when we finished," Tuikolongahau said jokingly.

Tuikolongahau explained this was actually his first gingerbread house ever.

When asked if it was worth skipping the essay, both answered, "100%."

"Honestly, I thought that I wouldn't finish in time, you know. I started building the structure, and I was like, man this is huge," Ethan Williams said. "We had neighbors coming over and looking at it saying, 'Wow, I can't wait to see the final project!' and I'm like, 'Yeah, me too.'"

"It just shows a lot of hard work and dedication and perseverance," Julie Williams said. "Because we did pull some really late nights."

"It's a big flex. I told like half the kids I know that me, Ethan and James — we made that gingerbread house," Tuikolongahau said. "Nothing is so beautiful."

The cathedral will be on display in the Bingham High School library until Dec. 25.

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