Read how early exploration and hands-on experience helped spark a student’s passion for architecture.
As a high school student at Boston Latin Academy, Shemar Stewart always thought he was going to pursue a degree in Computer Science (CS) because of his passion for art and video games. During his senior year in 2018, fate intervened in the form of a respected art teacher and mentor, who suggested he apply for a summer internship program at the Sasaki Foundation. The Sasaki Foundation was established through a bequest from the family and friends of Hideo Sasaki, a pioneer of modern design, landscape architect, and educator, to continue his legacy of advancing rigorous and challenging research in design.
Summer Internships as Learning Experiences
During the summer of 2018, Shemar and one other student participated in the Foundation’s Summer Exploratory Experience in Design (SEED) program, a six-week paid internship structured holistically around introducing high school students to the world of design.
SEED introduced Shemar to the various aspects of design, including drawing, graphic design, architecture and landscape architecture, interior and industrial design, and urban planning. Throughout the summer, students worked closely with Sasaki designers and mentors, who provided access to world-class projects, conducting design charrettes, teaching hand-sketching and computer-drawing skills, and much more. Sasaki mentors shared their backgrounds and expertise, which helped guide students throughout the process of designing their final project. Students also participated in sketching field trips and interviews with Sasaki principals and CEO James Miner.
It was the interdisciplinary approach of architecture – including its attention to detail, 3D software, and scale models – that sparked a new passion in Shemar, and by the end of the internship, he had changed his intended major at UMass Amherst from CS to Architecture. “I never knew what went into creating great architecture; it’s not just about design, per se, but about research, data analysis, and community outreach,” he said.
Shemar’s initial experience at SEED and newfound passion brought him back to the summer program in 2019, this year in partnership with American Student Assistance (ASA). His new role was co-managing eight interns from local Boston high schools as a teaching assistant. This summer’s assignment: design a hypothetical pop-up parklet – a sidewalk extension that provides more space and amenities for people using the street – that positively impacts the city.
When it Comes to Careers, Students Need to be Open AND Open-minded
Shemar notes that high school students need to keep an open mind when thinking about careers and talk to teachers about career options as an important first step. “Many of the interns this summer planned on studying medicine or law; design as a career was never an option, but this experience has changed that mindset and that many of their interests can have similarities and connections to design. It has shown me that there is no set path, but many opportunities to find what really interests me and make it into my career,” said Shemar. “If it wasn’t for my teacher encouraging me to explore other mediums and apply for the Sasaki internship, I never would have discovered my passion for architecture.”
“We hope this experience is the catalyst for the education and career paths our interns decide to embark upon,” said Alicia Deluga, Program & Marketing Manager for the Sasaki Foundation: “Through SEED, we aspire to help students learn how to create change by applying their passions to design, one project at a time. Our goal is to collectively build a culture of equity in the design field, by showing young students alternative career paths to industries they may never have known existed or were available to them.”
Why These Partnerships Matter
The partnership with the Sasaki Foundation is an important one with far-reaching impact, notes ASA President and CEO Jean Eddy. “The SEED program epitomizes our mission of helping students discover their interests and career options at a young age. It is one of many programs that can help students find their path and plan for the future by exploring careers they might not otherwise have considered. We hope the initiatives ASA supports continue to influence students like Shemar on their journey of self-discovery.”