B a c k p a g e Building Careers Skyline High School’s architecture cluster sets students on path to profession by Tom Cox 2008 graduate, he is now studying architecture at SCI-Arc. Tom Cox is currently in his twenty-ninth year on the faculty of Skyline High School’s architecture cluster. 96 t e x a s a r c h i t e c t 1 / 2 2 0 0 9 photo by Tom Cox Francisco Barron puts finishing touches on a class project. A The architecture CLUSTER at Skyline High School began in 1972 as one of the magnet career programs offered by the Dallas Independent School District to help prepare students for a variety of professions. From the outset, the objective was to provide students with the essential concepts of the practice of architecture. Much more than a traditional high school drafting class, the program allows students to create projects intended to nurture problem solving, develop visual communication skills, and enhance their academic classes. Also important to their preparation for the workplace is interaction with local professionals. AIA Dallas was instrumental in an advisory role from the beginning, and direct involvement by practitioners has ensured the relevance of the curriculum. Students have interned at the AIA Dallas, received AIA-sponsored scholarships and grants, served in a number of roles at local AIA events, and have had their work critiqued by AIA members. The Texas Society of Architects awarded the cluster a Citation of Honor in 2002. Four years ago, the architecture cluster piloted the ACE (architecture, construction, engineering) mentor program in Texas. Professionals from these three disciplines work with students after school to encourage them to continue their education and provide them with an understanding of careers in the fields of architecture, engineering, and construction. Students have received summer internships through the program and scholarships to pursue college degrees. The cluster also enjoys working relationships with the schools of architecture at UT Arlington, Texas A&M, UT Austin, and Harvard. Representatives from a host of universities visit the cluster on a regular basis and encourage students to pursue college degrees. Senior cluster students have the option of taking a co-curricular architecture freehand drawing course at El Centro College. They spend half their school day taking academics at Skyline then travel downtown to the El Centro campus to take their architecture courses in the afternoon. Skyline graduates have attended all eight schools of architecture in Texas, as well as architecture programs at Syracuse, Cornell, Columbia, and SCI –Arc to name just a few. Since 1972, approximately 1,600 students have been enrolled in Skyline’s architecture cluster. Of the 110 students currently enrolled in the program in grades nine through twelve, 67 percent are males and 33 percent are female. This year, 86 percent of those students are Hispanic, 11 percent are African American, and 3 percent are Anglo. They come from across the city to attend the program, some 20 percent traveling an hour or more one way. To date, faculty working with the Cluster have included Dr. Terry Lunsford; Dee Swope, AIA; Woody Mosbey; Robert Batson; Lynne Cagle; Peter Goldstein, AIA; Arnie Radman, AIA; Doug Aldridge, AIA; and Tom Cox. Faculty hold degrees in architecture from Yale, Tulane, UT Arlington, Harvard, UT Austin, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, and the University of Oklahoma. Several are practicing architects. For students interested in the built environment, Dallas itself offers physical proof of where a professional career can lead. The city is fortunate to have outstanding architecture, and in the near future will have buildings by six Pritzker Prize-winning architects. And the dynamic nature of the city’s built environment – its uses, people, and densities – presents evidence to students about what is possible to achieve if they prepare for a professional career.