CPL Empowering Future Innovators: A Case Study of Silver Creek Central School District

In the realm of education, few statements ring truer than this: the seeds we sow today will determine the landscape of tomorrow.

Motivated by this guiding principle, CPL’s K-12 Practice team dedicates their time and skills to unlock and ignite the potential of young talent. Our aim is to inspire interest and encourage exploration of career paths in the architecture and engineering (A/E) industry. By doing so, we not only sustain our craft but also pave the way for tomorrow’s innovators.

A standout example of this commitment resides in our enduring collaboration with the Silver Creek Central School District (CSD).

Nurturing Tomorrow’s Talent: The Mentorship Program We Wish We Had

Our partnership with Silver Creek blossomed with a mutual alignment of vision; the school district wanted to enhance its introductory A/E program offerings, while our team was eager to inspire careers in technology and design. This synergy shaped the learning and mentorship program our K-12 Practice team had always wished for in high school. Excited by the chance to collaborate with students considering futures in A/E, our team enthusiastically embraced the opportunity.

Now in its second year, the program begins with an in-person session introducing students to design theory fundamentals. Drawing inspiration from real-world scenarios, such as repurposing an old school building or reimagining a local park, students are motivated to think inventively. They tackle the practical challenges of form, scale, functionality and aesthetics, applying creative solutions to bring their visions to life.

Throughout the semester, we provide both virtual and in-person guidance to assist students in the refinement of their architectural solutions, culminating in a final presentation at one of our Western New York offices in Buffalo, Jamestown or Olean. By the semester’s end, each student has taken the first step to create a portfolio of work—a vital companion when pursuing higher education or entering the workforce.

“Our goal is to give students a pre-college opportunity to fully explore their passions and get a taste of potential A/E career paths,” explained Jason Benfante, AIA, Vice President and Regional K-12 Practice Leader at CPL.

CPL Empowering Innovators

A Shared Vision: Collaborating for Community-Centric Design

Nurturing future design professionals who can address community-specific needs is vital for sustainable development, resilience and equitable growth. In pursuit of this goal, we encourage students to leverage their own experiences to identify real, pressing needs that their design ideas can address. This approach ensures that each of their designs focuses on community benefits from the outset.

Senior Architectural Designer Brady Morrison emphasizes the importance of this focus.

“The success of our program hinges on developing A/E professionals who not only identify real-world challenges but also create impactful designs that drive positive change,” he said.

However, aligning personal interests with community needs can sometimes be a challenge for the students. In the most recent semester, for instance, a student chose a nearby public park as their design project. Initially, their focus concentrated on elements that resonated with them personally, rather than considering how they could serve the broader community.

CPL Empowering Innovators with Silver Creek

The pre-selected options for the senior design project.

With guidance from our team, the students learned to broaden their perspectives to envision design enhancements that could better serve the community at large. By the semester’s end, their projects embraced thoughtful features such as walking trails, additional green spaces and seating areas, reflecting a deeper understanding of end user needs.

Looking Back, Moving Forward: Key Takeaways

After two years of facilitating this program, our collaboration with Silver Creek CSD students stands as a mutually enriching endeavor. Students not only gain invaluable learning experiences, but they also benefit from the opportunity to network with industry professionals dedicated to helping them navigate their real-world projects with creativity, compassion and a commitment to the enhancement of their communities.

CPL Empowering Innovators

For our K-12 team, this partnership helps reignite our own dedication to the design profession.

Interior Designer Marissa Colucci, CID, NCIDQ, WELL AP, reflected, “Participating in this program has been a fulfilling journey, especially as designers who live and work within the community. We hope to continue this endeavor for years to come.”

Special thanks to the K-12 team members who contributed to the resounding success of the recent semesters with Silver Creek. In addition to Jason Benfante, Marissa Colucci and Brady Morrison, students benefited from the expertise of Architectural Designer Austin Genberg. Harnessing these collective experiences and perspectives, we strive to immerse students in the myriad career prospects that await them.

As a go-getting Senior Copywriter with a penchant for innovative collaboration and more than a decade of experience, Sarah applies resolute writing, editing and research skills towards developing compelling content that serves as a powerful reflection of the CPL brand.

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