Shadow Ridge High School preparing students for careers in architecture

Surprise, AZ | Submitted by Scott Thomas

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At an unassuming high school in Surprise, students are building the skills they need to open their own business right out of high school. It’s Shadow Ridge High in the Dysart School District and their Signature Architecture Program (SAP).

building skills for career in Architecture Created in conjunction with the area’s CTED, West-MEC, SAP is one of two signature programs at the school, including engineering. The four-year study covers everything from residential design and drafting to commercial, structural steel and civil planning and CIS (mapping). Students who join as freshman can earn 15 college credits, though high schoolers at any level are welcome to join.

With one class per day, students are also instructed in workplace and employability skills. They cover everything from writing and resumes to teamwork and terminology. Youth who complete the program are prepared to start their own business after graduation, working in custom home design and remodeling. However, most continue on to universities to continue studying architecture or construction. One New York university with a top-rated architecture program has been impressed with the program. So much so that they offer a $125,000 scholarship for one student each year to pursue their master’s degree.

building skills for career in Architecture The program has even incorporated specialized equipment to accommodate students with special needs. Using a grant from the Arizona Diamondbacks, SAP was able to purchase head movement tracking cameras. Because drawing is critical to the architecture process, it was a much-needed innovation. These cameras allow students to draw using only the movement of their head. Paired with the right software, the school can now educate students with a range of abilities.

building skills for career in Architecture After ten years, the program has been so successful that many students join just by hearing about it. Like many other CTE programs, its students graduate at higher rates. With a statewide graduation rate of 78 percent, and an Arizona Education Progress Meter goal to boost this to 90 percent by 2030, programs like this one are essential. The course keeps students excited about coming back day after day. So, it’s no surprise that they’ve graduated about 250 students. In fact, students are so engaged and well-prepared that they’ve won multiple national and state championships with SkillsUSA and the National Association of Home Builders.


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