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PA Neighborhood Restoration Act

Lea Oxenhandler: "These are invaluable experiences and opportunities allowing me to take on leadership roles that are few and far between at the intern level.”

Intern architect and Community Design Collaborative volunteer Lea Oxenhandler spoke at a recent press conference announcing the PA Neighborhood Restoration Act. This new legislation will allow students, intern architects, and recent graduates who contribute design services to underserved areas in Pennsylvania for at least one year to receive some student loan assistance.

Lea and other Pennsylvania architects joined Senator David Argall on April 14th as part of AIA PA Architects Action Day to announce the Act. “Numerous communities across the Commonwealth are in desperate need of revitalization,” said Argall. “This legislation will help to bring architecture services and an infusion of new project ideas to areas where they may not have been available.”

Architecture students are graduating with some of the highest loan balances in the country. According to a survey conducted by the American Institute of Architecture Students, students graduating with a Bachelor of Architecture degree leave school with over $42,000 in debt, while students graduating with a Masters in Architecture degree have over $72,000 in debt. In comparison, non­-architecture college graduates leave school with an average of $26,600 in loan debt.

“The economy hit architects hard in 2008 forcing many firms to lay off staff or even close, leaving many architecture students not able to find jobs in their field,” said Michael Skolnick, Board President, AIA Pennsylvania. This legislation will allow students, intern architects, and recent graduates who contribute design services to underserved areas in Pennsylvania to be provided with some student loan assistance.

Lea is an intern architect with KieranTimberlake and most recently served on the Community Design  Collaborative’s Reactivating Vacant Schools Design Charrette volunteer team. She spoke about the impact of community service on her professional development:

“This is the missing link between my professional career and the ability to apply the skillset that I’ve developed in school and at work towards more community­-focused design. These are invaluable experiences and opportunities allowing me to take on leadership roles that are few and far between at the intern level.”

“Millions of young people aspire to help their communities build a better future, but a lack of opportunity and the crushing cost of education hold them back,” said Danielle Mitchell, Architecture Student, Pennsylvania State University. "This real world experience will help individuals become more thoughtful, civic minded architects, grounded in the real world issues that affect their community.” 

Watch the press conference here

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