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Top design honor for Imago Dei

Citizen Staff Writer



It is a school of 38 students, all from low-income families.

Yet students from this Tucson powerhouse, Imago Dei Middle School, traveled to Washington, D.C., last week and came home with a $2,000 national first- place award in the School of the Future Design Competition.

Imago Dei’s project of a school complex incorporated solar energy, shade sails, water harvesting and greenhouses for urban agriculture. There also was a community resource center to bring the neighborhood into the school community.

“We made ‘we believe’ statements in terms of social justice and sustainability and made designs out of what we believe,” said Linda Cato, the visual arts specialist in charge of the team.

She said every student at the Episcopalian school at 639 N. Sixth Ave. participated. The four who presented the project were seventh-grader Monique Andrade, 13, and sixth-graders Sergio Acosta, Anthony Barcelo and Riley Breedlove, all 12.

It was the first time Monique and Sergio had ever been on a plane. Anthony had flown once before – to the same national competition last year, when the school took third place. “Last year we talked a lot about good stuff, but this year we decided we had to show it in the model,” he said.

One feature of the eight-months-long project was hybrid adobe, a judge’s favorite. “The sixth-graders made them out of paper pulp, mud, clay, plant fiber, glass and a little bit of cement,” Riley said.

Monique said recycled denim was used for insulation and recycled plastic water bottle formed into panels for doors. Even the use of slides, a merry-go-round and swings on the playground supplies energy to the solar panels, Sergio said.

“When we went to the competition, we saw that some of the other projects were a lot bigger than ours, and we thought they might win,” Monique said. “But we had decided we didn’t need to design something big. We wanted it to be sustainable.”

Throughout the year the students walked to the University of Arizona to visit with architecture students, who gave them some pointers. They also were mentored by architects from the firm ABA Architects.

Now, all three boys want to become architects, setting their sights on UA, Virginia Tech and Massachusetts Institute of Technology But not Monique. She wants to go to Harvard Law.

The Rev. Anne Sawyer, head of school, said the ambitions are spawned by success. “The ability of our students to win academic competitions on a national level demonstrates the incredible potential of all children when they’re put in a position to succeed.”

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