Young architects and urban planners are being groomed this fall thanks to a collaboration between Princeton University School of Architecture and Trenton Central High School. The program, called ArcPrep, introduces Trenton high school students to the discipline of architecture through an immersive, semester-long course on architecture, urbanism, and integrated design studio practices. Unlike other architecture high school programs, ArcPrep’s studio instruction is not an extra-curricular activity; it’s embedded within the high school curriculum and the daily schedule of participating students.

Greater Trenton’s CEO George Sowa and VP of Marketing Bryan Evans address a classroom of future architects at one of Trenton Central High School’s temporary locations at 135 E. Hanover Street. The high school currently has four sites in the city until the new school opens in September 2019.

Princeton ArcPrep aims to diversify the field of architecture by providing comprehensive support, guidance, and academic and cultural enrichment to students who are typically underrepresented in American architecture schools and thus the profession of architecture.

A rigorous academic program, Princeton ArcPrep helps participating students develop skills, knowledge and awareness related to careers in architecture and to aid in college readiness. The inaugural class comprises of 15 Trenton Central High School sophomores selected for their academic standing and interest in architecture.

Mónica Ponce de León, Dean of Princeton University School of Architecture, is Program Director, and Katie Zaeh, Princeton School of Architecture Architectural Design Fellow, is Program Instructor. Princeton University School of Architecture provides programmatic support, and the Trenton Public Education Foundation provides funding for the program.

Frank Petrino, TCHS graduate and board member of the TPEF, has raised $18,500 to support the program with the help of LENNAR – We Care Foundation, NJM Foundation, West Windsor Gardens, Sharbell Development Corporation, Eckert Seamans Charitable Foundation, and Mary Jo and James C. Hedden.

Frank comments that, “My goal is to raise $40,000 to fully fund this program at TCHS and to provide the students with the tools they will need to pursue careers in architecture, construction and design.  Many years ago, I received a high quality education from Trenton Central High School.  It is my hope that these students will have the same opportunities”.

Ponce de León stated, “Princeton ArcPrep is introducing some of our region’s most promising students to architecture, a field that has historically lacked diversity. I am deeply committed to providing these students—all of whom have an aptitude for architecture but lack access to formal training and support—an opportunity to develop the skills that will propel them into a successful career.” Ponce de León’s commitment continues after launching a successful ArcPrep program in Detroit while she was dean at the University of Michigan. The program, which she created with then associate dean Milton S.F. Curry, was inaugurated in 2015 and continues today with over 200 graduates to date.

Princeton ArcPrep students spend three hours a day, four days a week in studio with Program Instructor Katie Zaeh at Trenton Central High School studying architecture through a project-based learning curriculum. On the fifth day, they participate in either a career exposure module learning from guest speakers and going on site visits with architecture firms, or in a career counseling module in which they are mentored and work on preparing for interviews and presentations, creating resumes and design portfolios, and prepare for the college application process and financial aid and scholarships. Creating the design portfolios opens up new possibilities since they are critical for college admittance in design and architecture fields.

Zaeh stated, “By nature, architecture is multi-disciplinary and requires students to reach into their archive of knowledge and apply it to their projects. It challenges them reconsider their prior education in math, social studies, language arts, and science from a designer’s perspective. Knowledge becomes an active asset instead of a static memory.”

After completing the program, Princeton ArcPrep students can continue to pursue their interest in architecture and design through an afterschool Architecture Club at Trenton Central High School. Princeton ArcPrep will also support students as they transition to college.

Architecture is a discipline that constructs culture and designs the built environment all around us. While our communities are diverse, architecture lacks diverse representation and a diverse voice. Of all registered architects in the United States, less than 2% are African American and only 3% are Latino (American Institute of Architects 2014).

The School of Architecture, Princeton’s center of teaching and research in architectural design, urbanism, history and theory, and architectural technologies, provides students with a course of study that reflects on contemporary and emerging issues in architecture. Principal degrees offered by the School include a Bachelor of Arts (A.B.), Master of Architecture (M.Arch), and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). Students at the School of Architecture benefit from its small size and thorough integration with the University community. In 2017-18, the school enrolled 69 M.Arch students, 48 Ph.D. students and 22 undergraduates.

Trenton Central High School is a four-year comprehensive public high school that serves students in ninth through twelfth grades from Trenton, New Jersey, as a part of the Trenton Public Schools. The School is currently divided into Small Learning Communities (SLCs). The Chambers Street Campus houses five communities: STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), School of Communications, Visual and Performing Arts (VPA), Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism, and Business (HRTB), and the 9th Grade Academy.