Atlanta Public Schools A+ Awards

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The creative imaginations of Metro Atlanta high school students explode in a unique program being led by some of the city’s top architects and designers. The Atlanta Center for Creative Inquiry was launched five years ago at Benjamin E. Mays High School in southwest Atlanta. The Atlanta Center for Creative Inquiry (ACCI) provides opportunities for young people to be exposed to, participate in and be introduced to creativity, design, arts, architecture, real estate development, construction and entrepreneurship. The Center is operated through partnerships that give students an opportunity to find out how projects are created, developed and constructed.

This project is now being recognized by The Atlanta Partners for Education (APFE) with a nomination for the 2010 A+ Awards. The organization recognizes outstanding partnerships between companies and non-profit organizations like ACCI with the Atlanta Public School System. The winners will be announced at the Metro Atlanta Chamber program in October.

ACCI also recently received the good news that the Center has been awarded 501(c) 3 status. “This is a great achievement for our organization that we have been working on for a long time,” says board president Garfield Peart. “Hopefully, this will encourage more donors to help us help these young people.”

The students who have participated in previous programs have demonstrated a real dedication to the field. One student began taking a four-hour one-way trip on public transportation just to get to his summer internship at one firm that gave him an opportunity. Another student from Stevenson High School made sure he attended the presentation program even though he had been hospitalized the day before. Those are just a few of the stories of dedication of some of the students.

The ACCI is the southern initiative of the Studio for Creative Inquiry Sustainable Landscape Architecture Project (SLAP) at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. The current local Atlanta project is a six-week demonstration program based on the Carnegie Mellon University plan.

Currently, fewer than one percent of the American Institute of Architecture fellows (AIA) are African American. Fewer than half of a percent of all architectural firms are African American. The Atlanta Center for Creative Inquiry seeks to reverse that trend and to get more students in the pipeline to pursue careers in architecture, engineering, design, planning, real estate development and other creative avenues.

Nationally recognized practicing architect and artist Oscar L. Harris, FAIA, developed the program. Harris is the Founder and CEO of Turner Associates Architects and Planners, a 30-year old architectural and planning firm that lists Hartsfield-Atlanta Airport and the legendary Centennial Olympic Park as some of their trademark accomplishments.

Professors from Georgia Tech and local architects and engineers will serve as instructors and presenters during the project. The students will also tour college campuses, architectural and engineering firms and actual construction sites as part of their education. The students will culminate their six-week session by presenting a specially designed project that incorporates all the training they have received. The fifth class of ACCI is scheduled to graduate from the program on May 15th. Media coverage is welcomed and individual interviews can be arranged. For more on this project and to observe the sessions, call 678-247-2644.