Friday, February 9, 2018

Chapel Hill High CTE Student Advances in National Competition

Nadiya Farrington loved art and math as a young child, but it wasn’t until she took a class on Career Explorations at McDougle Middle School that she discovered architecture as a path to blending her two passions. “The fire in her didn’t start at Chapel Hill High,” said Mary Jones, Career and Technical Education Special Populations Coordinator. “She arrived with it already strong.” Now, as a senior at CHHS, Farrington already has more experience and accolades in her budding architecture career than many college seniors. Among her numerous accomplishments is her recent nomination as one of five North Carolina CTE (Career and Technical Education) students to advance to the semifinalist level in the national Presidential Scholars Program for 2018. She is the only young woman of the five candidates from our state.
Bound for Cornell University’s top-ranked undergraduate Architecture Program this fall, Farrington has balanced academics, club and varsity volleyball and countless hours of service during her four years at CHHS. Her resume shines with all the highlights. But architecture drives most of what she has chosen for summer experiences and volunteering, both locally with Habitat for Humanity, and construction projects in Mexico and Guatemala. It all comes back to building and design for her.
“I love that it’s a permanent art form, and yet it impacts people in their everyday lives,” Farrington said. “It exists for such a long time, and the buildings stand as visual representations of cultural backgrounds and values that you as an architect have - and also as reflections of the community you build them in.”
Her formal study began in ninth grade, in William McSwain’s Drafting I class at CHHS. Then she took Drafting-Architectural II and III, and she excelled in each course. "Nadiya's passion for Architecture has honestly made me a better teacher. Her drive and natural curiosity have challenged me as a teacher to challenge her to perform to her potential, and I am a better teacher because of it," McSwain said.
Although Farrington participated in summer enrichment programs at the University of Tennessee and at NC State, it wasn’t until she won a scholarship to Cornell’s Introduction to Architecture 2017 summer program that she realized her entire frame of reference had changed. “I spent six weeks at Cornell, and I took on a new perspective. I learned to look at and appreciate experiences differently, to look at the world through an architect’s point of view, noticing how you enter a room, walk through a building or what you see when you drive through a city.”
At Cornell last summer, she earned six hours of college credit by completing both Introduction to Architecture and Design Studio. While there, she connected with her first female mentor, and she knows it’s important to keep seeking out women architects to learn from, in a field that is still dominated by white males. As one of only seven underrepresented minorities of the 100 participants at Cornell, Farrington said she recognized how important it will be to mentor other young women of color, once she advances in her career.
In addition to the pre-professional experience she has gained through the summer programs, she has undertaken much more strenuous and rudimentary building projects during her service trips to Guatemala and Mexico. “On both trips, I was helping build houses for families in need. In Guatemala, we first had to clear out their old living environment of corn stalks and dirt floors. It was really eye-opening that four sturdy walls represented so much to them,” Farrington said.
The trip to Mexico was organized by her church, and the main project was the construction of a church and parsonage which were on top of a hill. “They were visible for miles around,” Farrington said, noting that the experience taught her to consider how your work impacts not only the people who physically interact with the buildings but also from a distance, when people look up to those spaces for hope and inspiration.
When Farrington isn’t playing volleyball, studying physics or calculus or volunteering at Habitat, she still needs to find time to work on weekends, both as a cashier in a grocery store, and as an amanuensis for a visually impaired client. At home, she helps out as she can, cooking dinner and spending time with her younger sister. Yet she insists that she does sleep every night! “Because I’ve been passionate about everything I wanted to do, it wasn’t like I was being forced. I’m always driving myself.”
As Farrington’s nomination moves through the levels of judging, criteria for evaluation will prioritize involvement and service, leadership and character, heavy workload and obstacles overcome, in addition to academic achievement. Sixty CTE semi-finalists for this prestigious award will be announced in March, and the twenty winners will be selected in April.
“Although we had several outstanding nominations this year for the US Presidential Scholars program for CTE, Nadiya's overall experience and how she overcame personal barriers while maintaining academic excellence impressed our interview team the most,” said Kathi Breweur, Director of Career and Technical Education with CHCCS.  “Nadiya's passion for architecture, coupled with her strong desire to help others, is inspirational.  This is a young woman who is a natural leader and a solid role model for her peers. We wish her the best of luck in the next phase of the selection process.”