This upcoming school year is one that will be filled with uncertainty for many students across the country. Schools will be trying many new methods of teaching which for some students can appear to be pretty stressful. That being the case, it’s not impossible to still have a successful year regardless of whether you’re a senior or a freshman. In order to help students do well in school during the pandemic, I’ve reached out to several of WHSAD’s most prestigious alumni to get their take on how to succeed here and how to succeed after graduation.
The first person I talked to was Nathifa Debellotte, class of 2016. After graduating Nathifa attended Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston and majored in architecture. She graduated this past summer with a Bachelor of Science degree in Architecture. Though as one might imagine, architecture school was not exactly a walk in the park. When talking about her college experience as an architecture student, she said that the experience was really tough being that you spend the majority of your time in class and then in the architecture studio making models and constantly updating your work. The most interesting thing about this conversation was her telling me that Architecture school is not what most think it will be. When I asked her what advice she would give to students in WHSAD who want to pursue architecture she said, “Those pursuing a career in architecture, it won’t be easy. It’s really not for everyone. It might be your path to something better down the line.” As of right now she plans to go into construction management; however, she did leave me with some very wise words, especially for those considering pursuing architecture post WHSAD: “If you can think and design conceptually, you will do great in architecture school. But also remember, even though that may not be your way of design, architecture is still a great foundation to learning the other trades such as engineering and construction. Learning the basics can guide and lead you into other trades that you can benefit and grow from.” In WHSAD the school teaches the basics of architecture, as well as theoretical and conceptual building. Now even though WHSAD at its core is an architecture school, the skills students learn can very easily be applied across many different career paths. And because of that WHSAD doesn’t just focus on architecture.
One person who exemplified the versatility of architecture skills was Ramon Williams, class of 2014. Ramon had participated in Skills USA in WHSAD and received an internship at an architecture firm through the school. When talking about his internship experience he said,”It truly was an amazing experience. But one thing I realized was I wanted to be more hands-on. While I was working at the firm, I realized that the thing I thought I loved wasn’t really what I wanted. I wasn’t going to get exactly what I wanted doing architecture. That’s what made me change my focus to a physics degree.” Ramon started working on his undergrad at Franklin Marshall studying Astrophysics and Chinese. What he says made astrophysics stand out was the fact that it incorporates all types of engineering and with it he can work on almost anything. This leads into how he feels WHSAD prepared him for that venture: “It gave me my foundation for everything I had to build on… Having the creative freedom especially in the senior course where you are able to design your own products. Having those freedoms and opportunities, I was able to see that maybe I don’t want to do architecture, but those hands-on skills inspired me to do other things.” His key to success was to have an open-mind at WHSAD. Despite the fact that it is an architecture school, some students don’t want to pursue architecture which is perfectly fine. However, by having an open mind the skills you learn in high school and especially the architecture classes can have real world applicability. And more importantly, can lead students to discover new passions.
The next graduate I had reached out to was Naya Rodriguez who graduated in 2019 and is now a sophomore studying medicine at St. Francis College. And though medicine isn’t exactly similar to architecture, she very much so saw the real world applicability of WHSAD skills such as experience with computer applications and proper writing. Her advice to students was to have strong relationships with your educators. She said, “In order to be successful at WHSAD one of the biggest things is definitely communicating with the educators. Being able to create a relationship with the staff allowed me to prioritize my grades while still getting involved…. I created some of my best high school memories by putting myself out there.” Another piece of advice to her was for students who can join extra curricular clubs to absolutely do so, as she herself was part of several at a time. Some examples are being a student ambassador, participating in architecture, electrical, business clubs and the school newspaper. Now though not all schools’ clubs may be open this year, it can be beneficial to build communication with educators as it can lead to more career opportunities. For example, Mr. O’Brien teaches students electrical during their junior year. However, regardless of what grade level they are in, a student can join his electrical club after school. Some students who have participated have had much success picking up electrical as a trade.
One example of a student who took full advantage of these programs was Russel James from the class of 2016. During his senior year at WHSAD he went to Coop Tech where he then got a job in the parks department. He said he had gotten that opportunity through working with Mr.O’Brien and Mr. Codio, the school’s senior year architecture teacher, who he says really pushed him to pick up a trade. When I asked Russel what his advice to students is he said, “I would take advantage of every opportunity given to you. Every class, and every certification you can get because in the long run that matters.” He had also mentioned focus being crucial in high school and getting priorities in order. Though most students may not understand the importance of it early on, it definitely was an eye opener for him later in his high school career.
There are so many opportunities WHSAD can give students in and out of architecture. Partnerships with programs across the city make sure every student, regardless of what they want to pursue, has a chance to put themselves out there and explore new paths. A lot of students don’t take interest in architecture, but there are still many other skills for them to pick up here. A common theme among the alumni was that they all at one point changed their career path. One mentioned that some students changed their major in college several times before settling down. And that’s perfectly fine too, because you won’t know what you love until you try it. Whether that’s learning electrical, representing the school’s architecture program, or participating in various art programs across the city, there is something for every student at WHSAD.