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Architecture Students Mentor High Schoolers at NOMA's Design Summer Camp in New Orleans

This past July, two UL architecture students, Shaela Nelson and Mark Jones, traveled to New Orleans to serve as mentors at Project Pipeline, a design summer program for 9th-12th graders.

Project Pipeline's stated mission is "to empower young people to affect change in their community through design. Using the city as the classroom, and connecting young people to real world architects and planners, we foster the next generation of design professionals, civic leaders, and changemakers. We advocate for increased inclusiveness, diversity, fellowship, equity, and excellence in design."

Nelson, a fourth year architecture student, and Jones, a first year M.Arch student, currently serve as President and Vice-President of the UL Architecture program's chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS), the student branch of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA).
NOMAS faculty advisor Kiwana McClung says that the student organization is all about mentorship. McClung says, "I always encourage NOMAS members to get involved in opportunities to mentor; chances that allow them to build up others while simultaneously building up the best parts of themselves. I am so glad that camps like Project Pipeline exist because they give our students a chance to pay-if-forward in terms of mentorship while also helping to cultivate the next generation of diverse designers."

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day last Spring, four NOMAS students participated in New Orleans architecture firm Eskew+Dumez+Ripple's MLK Day mentorship event. An architect at the firm, Javier Marcano, sat on the planning committee for Project Pipeline and invited them to volunteer.

Nelson and Jones met with Marcano and others at the AIA New Orleans for mentorship seminars and to discuss the planning of camp activities ahead of time to prepare. They re-enacted the activities to make sure that they were effective in creating the intended message for camp-goers. Jones was spending his summer in Atlanta and came back to Louisiana for the three day weekend just to participate in the event.

Nelson says that her decision to get involved was motivated by the kids. "I went to a STEM High school in Baton Rouge (Scotlandville Magnet High School), where I participated in robotics club, the moonbuggy club, and other engineering/architecture events that were put on my Shell, Exxon Mobile, and Halliburton. The individuals who served as mentors are responsible for nurturing my interests in STEAM. I volunteer whenever I can as a means of paying it forward."

While the camp's primary goal was to empower high schoolers, there were also networking opportunities for the volunteers with numerous architects, architecture educators, and city planners in attendance. Nelson was approached at the end of the camp to assist in planning next year’s camp and a few upcoming NOMA LA events.

Nelson says, "I was fortunate enough to engage with some of the brightest young minds and I cannot wait to start planning next year’s camp."
McClung says, "Shaela and Mark are just two of the best examples we have of students who are always ready and willing to jump into mentorship roles and keeping the pipeline going."

The School of Architecture and Design is proud of and inspired by these engaged and community-minded design students, and we look forward to see what the future holds for them!


Shaela Nelson (right) working with camp participants at Project Pipeline.

Project Pipeline campers working on an urban plan.

Shaela Nelson (right) working with a Project Pipeline camper.

Project Pipeline New Orleans volunteers.

Mark Jones (black shirt) and Shaela Nelson (green shirt) working with campers at Project Pipeline New Orleans.