It's no surprise that Heather Ross majored in Architecture during her first year at Auburn University--she was designing dollhouses at the age of 10. The big surprise came when Design+Construction Concepts Ltd., a Northbrook, Ill.-based design/build firm, offered to pay for a portion of her education.
Ross was awarded a $500 scholarship from the firm based on her essay "When I Grow Up." The essay detailed Ross' interest in architecture and design from the age of eight and onward. Ross even developed computer applications to showcase her early designs.
This is the first year that Design+Construction Concepts has offered a scholarship. Andrew Poticha, an architect in the company, graduated from Glenbrook North High School's architecture program, as Ross was doing when she applied for the scholarship. "It's just a great feeling to give something back to the community, to a place that positively influenced my choices in life," he says.
Ross' advisor, Glen Tointin, head of the applied technology department at Glenbrook North, encourages further cooperation between the school and local businesses. "It's always nice to work with groups in the community because it brings them closer to us," he says. "It validates the program and helps people to understand the benefits of offering this kind of curriculum to our students, our future professionals."
To earn the scholarship, Ross had to write a one-page essay demonstrating interest, passion and commitment to a building trade. Ross' essay, answering the question "Why do you want to continue your education in the building industry?" was selected from four entries, although she was not awarded the scholarship until after her first semester at Auburn ended. Ross had to maintain a B average to complete the criteria for the award.
Essays are collected from students during the second semester of their senior year. Before the end of the school year, the architects at the firm choose a winner, although the prize is not awarded until a student receives grades from their first term in college. To qualify, students must be majoring a building-related subject at a four-year university. Design+Construction Concepts intends to continue offering the scholarship to students at Glenbrook North every year.
Michael Menn, Poticha's partner at the firm, is excited to have an opportunity to encourage students in construction-related careers. "Offering the scholarship gives us an opportunity to encourage an exciting career choice," he says. "It's also a nice way to bridge the gap between business and academics." Menn also volunteers his time at the high school, giving guest lectures to the architecture students. His most recent lecture discussed building codes.
Ross plans to continue studying architecture at Auburn University, concentrating on interior design. "It's encouraging to know that people are supporting me," she said.