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Over 90% of our graduates complete high school within four years, in a city with an on-time high school graduation rate that hovers around 65%.

Architects help students reimagine neighborhood, provide career exposure

A group of eighth graders stands in front of their classmates, pointing out where the rec center, food court and pool will go on a small tract of land in Gesu’s neighborhood.

“What happens in the middle?” Susan Davis, an independent architect and public art consultant, asks the students. It turns out that’s where the open space will be.

”You have to convince everyone that this is the best idea,” prompts Chuck Capaldi, founding designer and managing partner of B Five Studio’s Philadelphia office.

Capaldi and Davis have been coming to Gesu School for several years now, giving the students a sense of some real-life career applications for math, art, social studies and even public speaking through a simulated experience as architects.

In past years the students have redesigned their classroom with Capaldi and Davis’ help. This year Capaldi and Davis started the class with a brief history lesson that included things like how Penn’s Landing and Dock Street got their names. Then they used Google Earth to examine the intersection of Ridge Avenue and Thompson Streets, which the class redesigned in small teams.

“With this sort of project, you see different people’s views about that they want for their neighborhood,” says Capaldi.

What made the list of things the Gesu students thought their neighborhood needs? Things like a school for children with special needs, a rehab center for drug addicts, an exercise area, a hair salon, a cafeteria and a health clinic.

“It’s great to work with kids with lots of energy,” Capaldi asserts. And it’s great for our students to work with professionals like Capaldi and Davis, who provide students with much-needed career exposure.

Architect Chuck Capaldi works with students

Architect Chuck Capaldi of B 5 Studio works with 8th graders on redesigning the intersection of Ridge and Thompson Streets.

Architect and public art consultant Susan Davis works with students

Students confer with Susan Davis, and independent architect and public art consultant, as they get hands-on experience in a potential career field.