Architect Helps Wilson Student

An AIA architect goes over a student's senior project as part of the program.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA), a national organization founded in 1857, works to inspire its members and inform the public about the importance of architecture and design.

That work was manifest locally last weekend at the biennial AIA Design Awards, hosted by the Long Beach/South Bay branch. At this year’s ceremony, Wilson High School teacher Jeffrey Jackson received the “Community Design Advocate” award.

AIA chapter president Carina Mills explained Jackson’s selection for this honor.

“He has been teaching architecture at Wilson for some time,” Mills said. “He is passionate about his students and eager to help them succeed, so he attends our programs and actively engages with our members. Everyone who visits his classes talks about the energy in his classroom and the incredibly challenging projects he gives his kids.”

Jackson, who began teaching at Wilson in 1997, spoke humbly about his accomplishments.

“I grew up in Long Beach and studied Industrial Design at Cal State Long Beach,” Jackson said. “I did some contract and junior design work while I was going through school, but I was actually hired to teach computer application at Wilson. When the architecture position opened up six years ago, I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to lead the program.”

Jackson said that Wilson administrators asked him to figure out how to increase student acceptances at architecture colleges. He said he began exploring ideas before the school year even started.

“I connected with Cal Poly SLO, which has a very prestigious architecture program,” Jackson said. “I also visited Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc). I wanted to see what skills students would need to get into these tough, competitive schools.”

Jackson said he made changes to the existing four-year elective program, giving students less architectural history and more hands-on projects. He also reached out to AIA because he felt it was important for youngsters to connect with industry leaders and stay abreast of current trends and state-of-the-art technologies.

“It is a truly serendipitous relationship,” Mills said. “We seek to educate our community about architects and what they do and his students are excited and curious, so it’s a perfect partnership.”

In fact, Mills said that AIA’s national leadership would like to find more high schools with architecture programs and institute student mentorship at a national level. Sadly, Jackson said that Wilson High might actually be in the process of reducing its architectural offerings.

“With Career Tech Ed budget cuts, there is talk that architecture could go away as a career path alternative,” Jackson said. “Wilson architecture students are currently getting into top schools and succeeding, but as far as I know the school is not offering semesters 1 and 2 of architecture next year. I worry that semesters 3 and 4 will be cut next and soon the whole eight-semester program will be phased out. My prayers are that we can keep architecture studies going. Architecture transforms cities… it’s not something that’s going to go away.”

Winners of the top Honors Awards were Ted Hyman, FAIA at ZGF Architects LLP; and Paul Miller, AIA, ras-a studio, (three awards).

Merit Awards went to Michael Bohn, AIA, and Alan Pullman, AIA, both at Studio One Eleven; and Oonagh C. Ryan, AIA, Oonagh Ryan Architects, Inc.

One Citation Award was given out to Rick D’Amato, FAIA. at LPA Inc.

For more on those awards, details about the organization and to see judges’ comments, go to

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