Prairie View A&M University students are taking their talents to their surrounding community. Find out how PVAMU’s School of Architecture students are making Texas buildings better in the story by Angie Frederickson below.

Students in the Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) School of Architecture (SOA) are receiving a new opportunity to take what they are learning in the classroom and apply it to real-world situations. Thanks to a newly formed partnership between the university and Habitat for Humanity-Houston, students are getting a chance to work on building homes and open-air structures in the Greater Houston area.

“Being on site with Habitat construction projects allows students to see how building materials come together with gravity, which doesn’t exist in their computer drawings,” said April Ward, assistant professor of architecture and faculty advisor. “It gives dimensionality to their vocabulary and builds their confidence.”

The students, who recently worked together to build a home in northeast Houston, are members of the PVAMU chapter of the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS). At the national level, AIAS encourages collegiate chapters to participate in the community service program Freedom by Design. AIAS’ Freedom by Design provides students experience working with clients, learning from local licensed architects and contractors, and experiencing the practical impacts of architecture and design.

Now that Habitat for Humanity-Houston is the official construction mentor for the School of Architecture student group, PVAMU students have access to opportunities to expand their knowledge and promote growth in the community. “This is a partnership that Alison Hay, director of Habitat for Humanity-Houston, and I have been working together to build ever since we connected after Hurricane Harvey,” said Ward. “PVAMU students will be able to benefit from Habitat’s experience and resources.”

The students’ most recent project centered on a 1,200 square-foot house located in a new neighborhood of single-family, all-brick homes. Each house was newly constructed and designed to be energy efficient, safe, and healthy. PVAMU students worked with Habitat for Humanity-Houston to follow construction plans, and they fully participated in the home building process.

One of those students, Alexis Adjorlolo, who is also the social coordinator for PVAMU’s AIAS, says she and her classmates worked as a team. “We prepared the house for window installation by using power tools and creating openings in the exterior walls, installing interior wall framing, and raising the roof trusses,” she said.

In addition to home building days, PVAMU AIAS members have the opportunity to create other design and build initiatives. The Social Justice Design Project is a student-driven idea to make a park-like structure in memory of social justice activists who have fallen victim to discrimination. Additionally, a team is entering a virtual and theoretical project competition that addresses community housing and food insecurity in Dallas.

“Hands-on building is amazing because we are literally building tomorrow, today. For us, as students, we are building our future, and for people who inhabit the buildings and structures we work on, they are also beginning their futures today,” said Brooke Meshack, PVAMU AIAS president for 2020-2021.

PVAMU students are making an impactful contribution to society while furthering their own education and looking toward the future. Working with Habitat for Humanity will provide the students the extra support they need. “Once students master normative design methods, it allows them to innovate,” Ward said.

Looking to the future, PVAMU architecture students are eager to continue and develop the partnership with Habitat for Humanity-Houston to maximize their potential for mentorship and volunteering.