This summer HMFH teamed up with Boston Public High School students, from the North End to East Boston, through non-profit Digital Ready’s Summer Studio, a program in collaboration with Wentworth, Boston Private Industry Council, and the Boston Society of Architects Foundation. Open to 11th and 12th grade students and recent graduates, the four-week program provides technology and curriculum for participants to explore the design field and build a digital portfolio. Each student is matched with a professional mentor and at HMFH our own Anthony Azanon, Justin Viglianti, and Jaime McGavin excitedly took the opportunity to participate, teach, and guide their mentees’ hands-on foray into architecture.
Below, HMFH-ers reflect on their experience working with students and the importance of mentorships in architecture. The following Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.
Jaime & Stephanie
Who was your mentee?
My mentee, Stephanie was preparing to start at Northeastern as a computer engineering student, but participated in the program because she has a strong interest in visual arts and 3D modeling. She was eager to meet with me each week and always came prepared with questions. Stephanie grew up in East Boston, which she also chose as the setting for the project she worked on through the program. Her design proposed a multi-use pavilion that addressed gentrification and the lack of representation of the immigrant community in East Boston.
What do you hope Stephanie gained from this experience?
Each week I was very impressed with Stephanie’s 3D models and her enthusiasm around the design challenges. At the end of the four weeks, Stephanie shared how much she enjoyed the program and I too enjoyed spending time with her and showing her the different opportunities in our field that she may not have known were options prior to this experience.
Justin & William
What did your mentee produce this summer?
William grew up in the North End and participated in Digital Ready because he wanted to explore a creative field outside of computer science, which is what he hopes to study in college. William selected a large lot in the North End as the site for his design and was interested in creating a space centered around climate activism. William’s appetite for learning was inspiring and I enjoyed sharing examples of international sustainable design and bike infrastructure. I was impressed with his thoughtfulness about the world around him; he wasn’t just designing something ‘cool,’ but focused on helping the environment and people.
Are there any big takeaways for you from this program?
I hope that programs like this happen more often in the design world, I think we really need it. The new generation is carrying a mantle for activist architecture and I think mentorships are an opportunity to connect with the next generation and establish a productive dialogue and exchange of ideas.
Anthony & Brandon
Why did you want to participate in a program like this?
I used to teach design/build workshops in Providence, where I grew up and I realized that I missed being directly involved with students.
My time with Brandon felt very personal. I am a first-generation immigrant and the first in my family to attend and graduate from college. Many students, myself included, who come from immigrant families have parents working in construction. Unfortunately, sometimes students don’t often see or pursue pathways to be in the AEC industry or architecture. Programs like Digital Ready ensure that students learn more about careers in the industry and have the tools and support to pursue them.
What was a highlight from the experience?
A big highlight was seeing Brandon’s design process and helping him develop his project. He created a flexible community space focused on improving the health and wellbeing of residents by addressing obesity and access to fresh foods. The level of thinking and his critical consciousness of the world was impressive and helped craft a meaningful conceptual design and final presentation.
Why do you think mentorships in the architectural profession are so critical?
It’s so important to show students early on that there are people like them who are thriving and finding success in the design field. When I mentor, I’m mindful of my experience versus the experience of my mentee and encourage them to explore all of their ideas. I think practicing professionals today need to realize that there are many types of people interested in this field and mentorships will begin to acknowledge this and the lack of diversity in architecture.