A key step in introducing young minds to the idea of exploring a design career is providing them with real-world experience and exposure to the profession—something not every student has access to. To address this, volunteers from our Architects for Action team, set up an externship program. The free six-week session is designed for local high school students, with the hopes of inspiring them to pursue a career in design while bringing more diversity to the profession.
“Given all the social unrest and turmoil in our world, we wanted to find a way to give back to our community,” noted program co-director Mary Bray Erickson. “It’s an honor to help guide the future leaders of this field and their professional decisions.”
Co-director Ankit Solanki shares Mary Bray’s passion for teaching kids. “I spent over four years volunteering with the arts in education program, LEAP, and love seeing kids’ enthusiasm for art and design. Their uninhibited creative minds and wild imaginations are always inspiring.”
The Fall curriculum includes information about the architectural practice, professional environment, what to expect in school, and touches on the college application process. Junior and senior-level WDA staff deliver the weekly presentations, giving students a range of perspectives. Students have the option to complete supplemental architectural exercises at home. Beyond the 6 weeks, our team offers weekly office hours and continuous mentorship. Interest was so strong that we are planning to hold another session in the Spring.
Students had a variety of reasons for enrolling. Some know they want to be an architect, and some are curious about the profession and want to learn more. Whether they are sure or not, “Our goal is to help the students see themselves in this career one day, and by sharing our own experiences and resources, they leave with tangible steps to make this happen,” notes Mary Bray.
Written by Steve Lovell, AIA
Contributors: Mary Bray Erickson; Ankit Solanki; Phoebe Lam, Architect; Parvathy Nair; Sarah Mergy; Wendy Osaki; Brenna Daugherty