The Alex Foundation, a 501 c-3, recently launched its internship in Lake Village for 10 high school and college youth. Participants were recommended by their high school counselor, classroom teacher and from previous participation in Alex Foundation’s architecture and design programs.

The internship provides work-based learning experiences for youth to obtain skills in an environment that supports learning to work while working to learn. It allows youth to be employed by Alex Foundation for 30 hours a week, providing real world knowledge, relevant employment, and compensation. With this, youth can acquire resources to equip them with problem-solving, team-building, analytical reasoning, technical, creative and critical skills such as STE+AM (science, technology, engineering, architecture and math), thereby preparing them for 21 st century careers. Funded through a subgrant award by Arkansas Division of Workforce Services (ADWS) and Arkansas Human Development Corporation (AHDC), participants were accepted for employment after a rigorous process.

The youth participants are Janett Solorio, Kathy Mondragon, Aidan Marcum, Javier Mondragon, Madeline Bush, Heath Wilburn, Carmella Mondragon, Dayton Dossier, and Quinten Shaw.

Participants began their internship at the Lake Village Expo (formerly National Guard Armory) with architect Brent Shelor of Hot Springs, and fabrication and metal designer Jeff Childers of Lake Village.

Shelor and Childers, both introduced youth to careers in their respective profession, and the skills required to be successful. Shelor provided a detailed perspective on his architecture career path and the steps he took to get to where he is today. He spoke about how his college pursuit did not begin with studying architecture. Shelor said he initially majored in engineering and changed his major three times over the course of his college journey.

“When I first went to college at Kansas State University, I initially majored in computer engineering,” Shelor said. “Later on, I changed to chemical engineering and then to architectural engineering. I then decided to get a degree in construction science and management.”

Shelor said a chance encounter with a college peer helped him to decide on his career. “I met a peer that was getting a dual degree in architecture and I decided that this would be the right move for me as well.” Shelor chose architecture since it was a good combination of subjects he enjoyed, such as math, science, and art. He said architecture was more aligned to his interest.

“I wanted to find something that I love to do, and engineering was not that,” Shelor said. “I continued to seek something more
fitting, and that something was architecture.”

For those interested in architecture, Shelor suggests working as an intern in the field of architecture to gain firsthand knowledge and experience. Shelor says an internship is important to do various tasks. “Not only should you do office tasks but get out into the field and see actual projects in progress. This will in turn, give you a better insight into whether this career is meant for you, or if you should look for other opportunities,” he said.

Shelor says there are substantial benefits to an architecture profession. “The benefits of the profession includes the joy of seeing your ideas come to life, helping your clients achieve their goals, making good money if you’re licensed, and getting the opportunity to change people’s lives by changing the environment they are living in,” he said. Adding, Shelor said, there are some considerations to the profession such as “long hours and stress; but those are common amongst all jobs.”

Shelor showed the youth several blueprints of his designs, and of designs he served in a contributing role as an architect. One blueprint presented was for a project that increased the square footage of space with an additional room onto a house. The blueprint included the original house structure, room replacements, room additions from several angles and elevations, installation details – from what is going in the structure and what needs to be done.

Shelor also led the youth on a tour and guided them to complete a sketch design project of the Tushek Building, an adaptive repurposed building constructed in the early 1900s by Austro-Hungarian John Tushek. The building is now the offices for the City of Lake Village.

Jeff Childers, a metal fabricator and designer, met with youth interns on two Saturdays, October 9 and October 16. During his first meeting with the interns, Childers gave a presentation on metal work, shared his journey into the profession, and provided instructions on measurements and math concepts.

Childers was candid with the youth and expressed the pitfalls he encountered early on in his young adult life. Childers told the youth that he dropped out of high school and pursued his G.E.D. “After getting my G.E.D., I went to a trade school to become a welder, which led me to a career working in metal mills, where I had to accurately make pieces that fit within certain parameters. This process was tedious because of the nature of their use. For example, while making pieces for things such as planes, the measurements had to be extremely accurate. If the measurement was off a certain amount, it could mess up the whole structure,” Childers said.

As time went on, Childers switched to a more creative side of metal work. He now works with the owner of The Paul Michael Company, where he designs and builds one-of-a-kind pieces. These pieces include tables, nightstands, nightstands, and even sculptures. Childers said his job gives him exclusivity to be creative and flexible. “Paul Michael goes and finds materials such as crystals, stones, and even petrified wood, and then leaves me with creative autonomy over the projects.”

Childers second visit with the youth, included demonstrating how the interns would make metal flowers. Each youth helped to build their own unique metal flowers. In addition to making “Forever Flowers”, youth used part of their day last Saturday to make ottomans. The ottoman instructions were presented virtually by Annie Evelyn, a Tennessee-based furniture designer and maker.

Catherine Maxwell Gardner, an interior decorator in Greenville; and Madeline Bush’s father, Mr. James Bush and her brother, Harrison Bush, also assisted the youth with building their ottomans.

The custom designed “Forever Flowers” and ottomans are available for purchase to support the Alex Foundation’s summer camps for youth by visiting or contacting, [email protected]

Alex Foundation appreciates Lakeside School District Superintendent Dr. Billy Adams; Lakeside High School Principal, Mrs. Linda Armour and High School Counselor, Mrs. Andrea Davis-Turner; Lakeside Middle School Principal Dr. Vera Wright and science teacher, Mrs. Christina Nolen; Central Community Church and Rev. Arthur Haney and Mrs. Gloria Haney; City of Lake Village, Mayor Joe Dan Yee and Sammy Angel; and Barton’s of Lake Village for their support and partnership.