Building the Next Generation From the Ground Up

Author and entrepreneur Jim Rohn once said that “whatever good things we build end up building us.” The Atlanta Center for Creative Inquiry is building a new cohort of creatives, bringing the world of architecture and design to the students of Atlanta.

Expert architect Oscar Harris started the organization in 2004, in hopes of giving high school students the opportunity to explore their own creativity and to showcase the profession to a diverse group of young people. With a mission to mentor, educate, and develop their abilities and provide a greater diversity in the architectural, engineering, and construction industries, ACCI seeks to bolster the fields with the next generation of professionals.

With staggeringly low numbers of minorities and women in the architecture field, Harris and ACCI bring architecture and design within reach of their students, expanding the opportunities for students who might not have considered the profession. Currently, just 1.5 percent of all registered architects are African American, six percent are Asian, and just 22 percent are women.

While they are still in high school, ACCI works with these students to expose them to jobs in the field. Partnering with local colleges and universities, ACCI also works with inner-city students to give them the chance to experience a summer on-campus experience. And, to further boost the pipeline of the profession, ACCI connects their students with area professionals to give them a one-on-one mentorship experience from someone already in the field.

Students who participate in the ACCI program learn from Atlanta’s best, attending lectures, touring construction sites, and visiting architectural firms. They focus on a wide-range of architectural styles and learning, including sustainable design and commercial building.

And, each summer, ACCI presents a week-long academy for 9-12th graders, held at Georgia Tech. While learning from professional instructors, they also get the chance to get hands-on—literally. Students in the program are required to come up with a design concept, and sketch it by hand. From there, they build a 3D model and present their work to their ACCI peers.

“At the end of the week, you’ll be able to stand up in front of everybody and give a presentation on your idea,” Harris said. “When a child comes out of the program, they feel empowered. For the first time, they have been able to develop an idea. They have rendered that idea, and they have presented that idea.”

“The main thing is to get these students excited about themselves and excited about creativity,” Harris added. “We want to get them to see that there is a future for them and a career in architecture, engineering and construction.”

ACCI has worked with hundreds of students in the Atlanta area, seeing many go on to prestigious architecture and design programs in their post-secondary education. More information and applications for this summer’s academy can be found online at www.acci.org. Listen to the full episode of The Good Works Show, here.