New giveaway brings design education to underserved youth

The University of Pennsylvania today announced a $7.5 million commitment from Lori Kanter Tritsch and William P. Lauder to support Design to Thrive, a youth development initiative centered on design education and learning. career exploration. Lori Kanter Tritsch is a Penn alumnus who holds a master’s degree in architecture and is currently a member of the advisory board of the Weitzman School of Design, and her partner and Penn alumnus is William P. Lauder, who holds a bachelor of science degree. in economics from the Wharton School and is a director of Penn.

Design to Thrive began as a two-year pilot project in New York and Philadelphia in response to limited educational and recreational opportunities during the pandemic. With this gift from Lauder and Kanter Tritsch, Design to Thrive will be an ongoing enrichment program produced by PennPraxis, the Weitzman School’s center for applied research, outreach and practice. Their pledge includes $500,000 in challenge funds from the Weitzman School which was established to encourage support for the program.

“We are extremely grateful to Lori Kanter Tritsch and William Lauder for their generous support of Design to Thrive,” said Acting President Wendell Pritchett. “Their commitment will expand Penn’s ability to respond to the challenges of our built and natural environments and the communities that inhabit them. Design to Thrive provides career-focused arts education to local youth. It brings skills and concepts of art and design to young people who may not have had much exposure to these fields. »

The Design to Thrive pilot programs were made possible in 2020 and 2021 through initial support from Lauder and Kanter Tritsch, donations to the Praxis Design Fellows program, and partnerships with The Fresh Air Fund in New York and Philly Thrive, a community leading. voice for environmental justice in Philadelphia.

In New York’s latest pilot, young people aged 13 to 18 met four days a week for an intensive design and build workshop in a beautiful outdoor classroom on Governors Island. There, PennPraxis Design Fellows imparted a wide variety of design skills and approaches, including welding with torches, creating ceramic molds for porcelain bells, and building an accurate topographic model.

Picture: Gaja Papa

Lauder, Chairman of The Fresh Air Fund, and Kanter Tritsch, a longtime Fresh Air supporter, introduced The Fund to PennPraxis and facilitated the pilot project. Since 1877, The Fresh Air Fund, a nonprofit youth development organization, has provided life-changing outdoor summer experiences for more than 1.8 million children in New York City’s underserved communities.

“During the pandemic, there was growing concern that today’s young people lacked vital educational and growth experiences,” Kanter Tritsch said. “Bringing together the talented students of Weitzman and the young people of the Fresh Air Fund was an obvious solution in my mind. I am thrilled that Design to Thrive is having a meaningful impact on the learning of the young people who participate, as well as the Weitzman students who design and teach the programs.

Design to Thrive will follow the design education studio model. Students will engage in drawing, painting, model making; digital design; workshop courses in welding, molding and woodworking; and environmental justice workshops and field visits. Participants will receive supply kits, computers to support homework, lunch and public transportation. Students from families of limited means will receive stipends to cover loss of income to enroll instead of summer work.

“This donation will allow PennPraxis to have an even greater impact in communities that design typically doesn’t serve. We are all excited to be able to deepen and diversify the learning opportunities we provide through Design to Thrive, adding large design/build projects to improve public schools and Fresh Air Fund youth camp facilities to resources. poor and with limited access to arts education. . With the help of graduate students and alumni of Weitzman and our local partners, we help young people develop their skills and confidence in building, crafting, critical thinking and communication,” said Ellen Neises, executive director of PennPraxis.

A portion of the donation will also staff and appoint Executive Director Lori Kanter Tritsch of PennPraxis, a position currently held by Neises.

Weitzman graduate students and recent alumni will serve as teachers and mentors to lead Design to Thrive intensive studio courses over the summer. The program has been popular among Weitzman students enrolled in different degree programs as an opportunity to collaborate across traditional disciplinary boundaries.

“Design to Thrive embodies our school’s deeply holistic approach to the built environment and its commitment to the public good. Through this program, Weitzman students in architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, fine arts, and historic preservation come together to nurture creativity and problem-solving in historically left-behind communities. Additionally, bringing people from diverse backgrounds into our fields earlier in life is also key to increasing diversity in our schools and professions,” said Fritz Steiner, Dean and Paley Professor of the Weitzman School.

Key elements of Design to Thrive will include skills certification by Penn; portfolio and resume development; Professional orientation; and introductions to high school, community college, and undergraduate design curricula. In the fall of 2021, two graduates of the PennPraxis pilot program enrolled as first-year students in architecture and engineering programs at City College of New York and Drexel University.

The 2022 program will start on June 27.

Abdul J. Gaspar