At Philadelphia’s Charter High School for Architecture and Design, the first charter school in the country focused specifically on architecture and design, Courtnay Tyus serves as executive director, designing programs to engender intellectual curiosity and career possibilities. With a fresh perspective on education based on design, Tyus is drawing up new blueprints for her students’ scholastic lives.
Courtnay Tyus is making history … by redesigning students’ futures. Integrating the architectural design process with a liberal arts education, CHAD is a tuition-free learning community founded to help increase the number of African-Americans and Latinos working in architecture.
Besides boosting test scores, increasing attendance, and opening up career possibilities for underprivileged students, Tyus’s work with the school’s Designing Futures Foundation pairs students with internships at local design firms. Recalling Tyus’s support, one student, Ryan Brown, noted in an interview with the Architectural Record, “If I had been anywhere else, nobody would have fought to keep me in school.”
What’s next for Courtnay?
In addition to her work at CHAD, Tyus volunteers for the National MS Society, owns a custom jewelry design business called stellagrace jewelry, and has been on the board of directors for Philadelphia’s Architecture Construction and Engineering (ACE) Mentorship Program, which encourages inner-city students in the field and connects them with internships and scholarships. Of the 47,000 students who have participated in the ACE Program across America, 82 percent are black or Hispanic and one-third now have jobs in design-related fields.
What inspires Courtnay?
“My parents gave me the foundation that I use in my daily work exposing our students to new ideas and new opportunities,” Tyus told theGrio. “When a current student or alumnus stops by my office to thank me for an opportunity or for exposing them to an opportunity they never knew existed, it reminds me of the reason I do this important work.”
In her own words …
“A wise man once told me, ‘If you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life,’” Tyus notes on her staff profile.
A little-known fact …
Of students who start at CHAD as freshman, 95 percent will graduate four years later, compared to approximately 50 percent of the students in Philadelphia’s wider public school system.
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