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When My Worlds Collide: Returning to High School with a Different Perspective

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I wasn’t overly fond of high school. I was painfully shy, my world was small, and cell phones didn’t exist so I couldn’t hide behind my phone scrolling through social media. Recently, I returned to my high school campus, and instead of being the reluctant, shy student I once was, I was the confident professional supporting Kingston High School both as a 1982 graduate and as a team member from KSQ–the firm chosen for a comprehensive and historic re-imaging of the school’s 100-year old campus.

I remember the first day of 10th grade at Kingston High School when I walked through the front entrance of the main building which first opened 65 years earlier in 1915. Fashioned after the Louvre in Paris with its ionic columns, high ceilings and grand hallways, I was overcome with fear and wondered if I’d ever be able to make new friends, find my locker, and arrive to class on time.

At that same time, the campus was undergoing its first major construction project to support the growing population of Kingston, NY, (the first Capital of New York State). The $14 million project was supposed to be completed before the start of the school year, but deadlines waned and we found ourselves without lockers or science labs. The students were in an uproar, not necessarily about the science labs, but it was a large campus and book bags didn’t have wheels, so how could we possibly carry all of our books around to class all day?

We were oKHS 100 Graphicutraged and decided to stage a walkout, planning to stay home from school until the lockers were installed. The administration got wind of this and the lockers were installed over the next few days.

Fast forward six years to my college graduation where I received a degree in Graphic Design. Massimo Vignelli, a prominent graphic designer, industrial designer, and architect, had close ties to my college (Rochester Institute of Technology), and recommended that a few of us interview with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), an international architectural and engineering firm with an office in New York City. Whether I loved it or hated it, I had to experience life in New York and was elated to find out that I landed a job at SOM. (On a side note, if you ever want to overcome being painfully shy, get a job in New York City; it works!)

I’ve spent my entire career working in the architecture and engineering industry. Three years ago I was presented with the opportunity to join KSQ, and was thrilled when I found out we were working with the Kingston City School District. With the passing of a $137.5M Bond Referendum, the project includes a series of renovations and additions, and the groundbreaking ceremony coincided with the 100-year celebration of the opening of Kingston High School.

This is where my worlds collide. Over thirty years later, when I walked through that main entrance again, instead of fear, I had an extreme feeling of confidence and pride. I was proud to be a graduate of a high school with teachers and programs that prepared me for college, and proud to see my fellow classmate, Kirk Reinhardt, as the current Principal of the High School. I was especially proud to be a part of the firm that is collaborating with the school’s team to make their vision of second century learning become a reality.

The ceremony began with an official welcome and then Dr. Paul J. Padalino, Superintendent of Schools, Nora Scherer, President of the Board of Education, and Principal Reinhardt all spoke.

Brooklynn Milliken, President of the Class of 2015, and Yasmine Aziz, President of Student Government, were both scheduled to speak and were surprised by being awarded the first KSQ / BBL Construction Services: Architecture-Construction-Engineering Scholarships. BBL Construction Services is the Construction Manager for the bond referendum expansion and renovation of the school. KSQ and BBL have created a scholarship fund in support of the school and district students interested in A/E/C careers.

KHS100_Yasmine and Brooklyn

Left: Yasmine and Brooklyn accept their surprise scholarships from KSQ and BBL Construction.

KHS100_BBL Scholarship Presentation

Left: KSQ Principal Scott Hillje, AIA, and Managing Principal Armand Quadrini, AIA, LEED AP, along with representatives from BBL Construction and Kingston High School present the KSQ-BBL Scholarship.

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill was the Guest Speaker for the celebration–a KHS grad as well–and his address was followed by plaque presentations for the Valedictorian and Salutatorian and a concert performance by the KHS Alumni Choir.

The attendees then went outside for a groundbreaking that the school’s centennial celebration booklet so eloquently announced:

“…the KHS 2nd Century Project will be breaking ground before the end of the 2014-2015 school year, setting in motion the first phase of a high school renovation that will not only preserve the rich history and beauty of the original Main building but will also provide the 21st century learning facilities for the students of Kingston High School for the next 100 years”

Representatives from the school, the Board of Education, BBL Construction, and KSQ broke ground on the Kate Walton Fieldhouse lawn.

KHS Groundbreaking_Full Group

KHS KSQ Groundbreaking Photo

With the moving of the dirt, and the official groundbreaking ceremony for the second century project, I was officially a part of a different world. After being in the architecture and engineering industry for almost 30 years, I have a much larger appreciation and understanding of a project, and I found myself chuckling about our staged walkout when I saw the lockers in the hallway.

Here’s a video of KSQ’s design for Kingston High School (and be sure to click on the “gear” icon below that will appear after you hit play, and switch it over to HD 1080 for the best view):

 

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