The first time 13-year-old Nayla Campbell saw the deck built for her family by a group of Temple architecture students, everyone stopped in their tracks to watch her experience her new backyard for the first time.
Meghan Higgins, the project manager, said the project was the product of two years of planning and building by her and other architecture students which came to an end Dec. 14.
“We don’t get to go out into the field that often,” said Higgins, a senior architecture major. “So I got to see a whole new phase of the construction.”
Higgins is a member of the American Institute of Architecture Students, which helps architecture majors gain real-world experience on projects that benefit communities across the country.
Nayla’s mother, Radiah Campbell, contacted AIAS requesting a wheelchair ramp be built at their Drexel Hill home for Nayla, who has cerebral palsy, vision impairment, hydrocephalus and epilepsy. Higgins said she immediately wanted to take on the project.
“It’s one thing to draw in the classroom, but it’s another to do it for a family,” Higgins said.
Once Higgins started the project, getting other architecture students to participate was easy, she said, since hands-on experience is hard to come by.
Though construction did not begin until October 2014, Higgins said the planning process began nearly two years prior, when she and other AIAS members drew sketches for the potential ramp and deck.
From there, the group visited the Campbell family at their home to meet Nayla and discuss her needs with the ramp and to decide on the best design, Radiah said.
Prior to the construction, Nayla could only enter their home through the front door, which was difficult due to a landing that required her to be lifted through the door, a challenge for the family.
“[Nayla] couldn’t really go out into the backyard because there was no way for her to get out on the landing,” Radiah said. “We didn’t want to put a ramp in the front because it’s kind of an eye sore, so now this ramp in the back allows her to get to her bedroom. They took out the existing landing and put in a nice landing with a ramp.”
“[The students] were very committed to the project, so we’re really grateful to them for that,” Radiah added. “They worked even in bad weather.”
AIAS is a non-profit organization, so the majority of funding for the project came from fundraising efforts on the part of the students.
“When we weren’t building, we were raising money,” Higgins said. “We did material sales through our department, but we also sold grilled cheese and pancakes.”
Higgins said the group made enough money from these sales to pay for the project, but they also received assistance from local architecture firms for the paving and other construction materials.
Higgins she said she was happy that her first hands-on construction experience had a real impact on the Campbell family.
“It’s nice to see how your building can really affect families in need,” Higgins said. “Learning how to apply our skills and translate into helping kids in the community – that was really rewarding.”
Alexa Bricker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org