The Socorro Independent School District launched its seventh advanced academic academy at El Dorado High School at the start of the 2018-2019 school year.
“Our students will be exposed to architecture all four years,” said Luisa Valenzuela, the academy instructor and an El Paso area architect. “They will build their knowledge and by their senior year they will know what it is like to be an architect. They will become excellent designers, they will have the opportunity to present to professional architects and civil engineers so that when they graduate they are prepared for the college environment and be ready for the real world.”
SISD officials add, “The Aztec Architectural Academy, the only one of its kind in the El Paso region, is a rigorous, hands-on program that allows students to gain a foundation in the fields of interior design, construction, civil engineering, and architecture.”
Students also earn dual credit and take career and technical education courses that will have them on an advanced pathway to earning a degree in architecture.
Forty-five students are in the academy’s first cohort. They will delve into several hands-on projects, including creating an actual blue print of a home and then building a small model of it; completing 25 hours of community service with an architect; and learning all mechanical, electrical, plumbing and green building codes, she said.
The academy class is divided into two groups. One class meets is in the morning. The other in the afternoon. The classroom is set up much like an architectural office with draft tables, metal architect swing arm, LED desk lamps, architect and engineer scales, protractors, sketchbooks, colored lead pencils, liner pens, tracing paper and storage tubes. New computers and projectors on either side of the room top out the class amenities.
“We want to make sure students have all the necessary tools to succeed,” said El Dorado High School Principal Cynthia Retana.
AAA will be working closely with the El Paso Community College architectural program. A committee from the college oversees the academy and, this past summer, students took a tour of the architectural facility at El Paso Community College.
“We are here to help you,” Alejandro Mireles, architecture coordinator at El Paso Community College, told students who attended the inaugural meeting. “Architecture is constantly changing. It’s competitive and this will challenge you, but it also will be a very exciting experience.”
“It’s exciting to offer an endorsement that many students are interested in,” Retana said. “It’s another opportunity for students.”
Desiree Cuevas, 14, can’t believe that the district is offering something she has been wanting to do since she was a little girl.
“I love building things,” Cuevas said. “I used to play with Legos all the time, making tall buildings and houses. This is pretty exciting.”