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Habitat for Humanity Partners with Palomar and its Students

The Architecture department partners with Habitat for Humanity as part of a trial-run of its first internship program in years

On Aug. 23, 2021, Palomar’s architecture department launched a pilot program designed to get students hands-on experience while giving back to the community. Participants, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, are currently working on an affordable housing project in National City, San Diego.

The pilot program is being run as a class, ARCH 295, which is a revamp of an internship course that the college offered many years ago. Prof. Joseph Lucido, head of the architecture department, explained over Zoom how the former program mainly involved students doing office work. The new and improved version offers a more well-rounded approach, giving students the chance to participate in active builds, as well as develop the interpersonal and back-office skills that will help them thrive in their careers. On another Zoom call, Prof. Nathan Houck, who will be overseeing the program explained the value of having an in-person component,

“The beauty of architecture is that someone else is physically building what you’re drawing. So if there’s a mistake, if there’s some inefficiencies, some error in your drawings, it’s going to come to light.” he continued, “What this does, is it allows students to get their hands on what they’ll eventually be drawing at an architecture firm, and that knowledge is invaluable in that it ideally means less mistakes when you’re drawing it.” said Houck.

Both Houck and Lucido hope to see the class offered annually, but according to Lucido, the future of ARCH 295 will be determined by the success of the pilot program.

Emma Chilcote, an architecture major working on her associate’s degree, is one of the program’s 10 participants. So far, she’s enjoyed watching what she’s learned at Palomar come to life on the job site, “I took a class called Materials and Methods of Construction, and it was crazy to see everything I studied in front of me. I drew architectural details in that class about building walls, and then actually built walls similar to the ones I drew.” recalled Chilcote.

An important aspect of the program is that it’s centered on social responsibility. Participants get the chance to work with Habitat for Humanity, an international non-profit that builds homes for low to moderate-income families, as well as those affected by natural disasters. Students are working on-site in National City, San Diego, to build six townhomes for residents in need of affordable housing. Chilcote described her experience with the organization as enjoyable and rewarding, “Everyone there is in a good mood and are just happy to be there… it makes me feel really fulfilled and like I’m making a difference in my community.”

If the class is approved for renewal, Prof. Houck plans to maintain an ongoing relationship with Habitat for Humanity. However, he and Lucido would like to branch out and partner with other local organizations as well. So far, the program is demonstrating solid potential. Students are returning to the classroom inspired as they lay down a foundation for their futures and a better society in the process.

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