Princeton ArcPrep Launches at Trenton Central High School

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This fall term Princeton University School of Architecture, in collaboration with Trenton Central High School, launched Princeton ArcPrep, a program introducing 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.

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 '10, Princeton School of Architecture Architectural Design Fellow, is Program Instructor. Princeton University School of Architecture provides programmatic support, and Trenton Public Education Foundation (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.

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 to 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).

Recent Press: 
"ArcPrep Program Launches at Trenton Central High School" from TrentonDaily
"University Launches Architecture Program for Trenton Central HS Sophomores" from Town Topics