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Jamaica Nonprofit Wants to Turn Local Youth into Budding Architects

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | March 17, 2017 4:46pm | Updated on March 20, 2017 8:00am
 Jamaica-based nonprofit Project Petals held its inaugural workshop on architecture on March 11 at the Queens Central Library.
Jamaica-based nonprofit Project Petals held its inaugural workshop on architecture on March 11 at the Queens Central Library.
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Project Petals

QUEENS — Jamaica is on the rise, and a local nonprofit wants young people from the neighborhood and beyond to get interested in architecture to one day become part of the construction boom.

The idea is the brainchild of Alicia White, a Jamaica resident and founder of Project Petals, a group focused on helping communities in underserved neighborhoods.

White said that while working on several environmental projects in Southeast Queens, including building a path in Railroad Park in Rochdale, she had to consult architects and architectural designers on a daily basis.

“And I thought to myself — these people are really an integral part of the community,” she said.

So she came up with the Youth Builders Program, hoping to get young people from local minority groups interested in architecture and engineering and to expose them to career paths in fields where they could have an impact on their neighborhood, she said.

White used her own funds as well as grants from the Discovery Channel ID and the VMare Foundation to launch the free program.

"This program is an opportunity to open the dialogue about these fields within the neighborhoods that are currently being overdeveloped and underrepresented on a large scale,” she said.

The nonprofit reached out to local high schools and junior high schools, inviting all students in grades 5-12 to participate.

About three dozens teens attended the initial workshop held last week at the Queens Central Library in Jamaica.

During the workshop participants had a chance to hear about careers in architecture while talking to experts from architectural and construction firms such as Jamaica-based Graf and Lewent Architects LLP and Terrence O'Neal Architect LLC as well as Partnership for Parks and Turner Construction.

Students learned about job opportunities in both fields, but also about challenges, including lack of diversity.

White, who wants to organize similar classes throughout the city, said the next workshop will take place in Brooklyn.

Eventually, she hopes to hold classes in various libraries on a weekly basis, she said.

“With this program I hope that young people will not only show interest in the architectural field but eventually they will become architects,” she said. 

Those interested in workshops should go here or email info@projectpetals.org.