Teen builders unveil projects
Power tools whirred in a southeast neighborhood Wednesday as summer campers and their counselors built a wooden clubhouse on a grassy lot, the product of a five-week program that let teens learn skills and improve their community.
“I would recommend this to everyone,” said Samuel McCullough, 18, a junior counselor who participated as a camper last year.
Under the leadership of Réna Bradley, Tired-a-Lot Summer Studio participants identified a need in the Mount Vernon Park community.
Campers designed solutions and built full-scale working prototypes of those solutions with the intent to install permanent structures later to revitalize vacant lots, Bradley said. She noted the group gets necessary approval from local governing bodies.
The program’s name reflects the concept of using locally sourced and upcycled materials, such as pallets and tires. Upcycling means materials are reused to create products of higher quality or value than the original.
A 2016 Knight Cities Challenge grant supports Tired-a-Lot, an offshoot of Bridge of Grace Compassionate Ministries. The faith-based nonprofit is affiliated with Many Nations Church, and Bradley is its community development director.
Campers unveiled their designs at a community event Wednesday. One group proposed a serene space featuring a butterfly garden, a stone path and raised planter boxes that can double as seating. Another designed a clubhouse and a fence decorated with murals of cartoon characters through the decades to promote multi-generational interaction.
Through the process, the 13 campers learned about architecture, design, installation and sustainability.
It was amazing to watch the campers : mostly high school students : actualize their ideas, said design counselor Justina Starrad, 21, a Howard University architecture student.
First-time camper Camron Murphy, 15, said he would participate again, adding the program is good for those who like art or construction.
McCullough referenced a playground project from a previous year. It is fulfilling to know neighborhood children use the space, he said.
The program is about more than the neighborhood’s physical transformation, Bradley said. It aims to shift perceptions about what the neighborhood can be.
“We want to let the youth of this community know that not only can their environment grow and change for the better,” she said, “but that they can be the catalysts for that change.”