Summit High grad Keegan Hebert helping Houston youth understand place in the world |

Summit High grad Keegan Hebert helping Houston youth understand place in the world

Kevin Fixler
Summit High grad and CU-Boulder alum Keegan Hebert recently launched a community outreach program in Houston through Rice Univesity's graduate-level School of Architecture. The goal of the "Recess" project is to teach area youth important life skills through concepts in design.
Courtesy Keegan Hebert |

Keegan Hebert, a 2008 graduate of Summit High School, always appreciated his surroundings while growing up in the county, but never gave much thought to them before becoming an upperclassman.

It was as a junior, when he took a drafting class offered at the high school, that his passion for structural design took off. As a senior, while also completing International Baccalaureate classes and seminars at Colorado Mountain College, he had the good fortune of taking an architecture course with teacher Darrick Wade. After helping on a project to draw up plans for a home in Silverthorne, and a little encouragement from his teacher, his future path clearly presented itself.

While at the University of Colorado-Boulder — at that time the only college in the state with an architectural major — he gained an appreciation for community involvement while volunteering at a local center. The summers he spent back home donating time to the Summit County Builders Association — which granted him a four-year scholarship to attend CU — by collecting and sending building materials to disaster-stricken cities across the county gave him a final push.

Following a six-month stint working in Paris, and two and a half years in Denver, Hebert decided to head to grad school at Rice University in Houston. Now 26 and in the second of his three-year masters of architecture, he’s bringing all of his passions together through a project he helped start last fall. Through Rice’s architecture mentoring program, Hebert launched the Recess program to teach the area’s youth about architecture.

“We have such talented students and professors, and it was something that I thought Rice was lacking,” said Hebert. “I saw it as an opportunity for students in the School of Architecture to engage the community through service to teach local children with the idea that design is an indispensable tool used not just by architects, but something to be used in their careers moving forward.”

Partnering with colleague JP Jackson, and collaborating on the new program with a local STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) organization, the two grad students have now taught five one-hour lessons on consecutive Saturdays, each followed by small group activities for the youngsters and presentations with what they’ve come up with.

“Each lesson is about architecture,” he said, “but it’s really about using it to teach skills we think will aid them later in their lives. Communication is so important in everyday life, and we use things like patent drawings to show how to distill ideas down to core concepts, and to effectively communicate them.”

Hebert and Jackson don’t expect even more than a handful of participants, of which there’s been 20-30 kids and between 10-15 parents who sit in to learn as well each week, to pursue architecture. In fact, most already have strong interests that lie in either engineering or design. But the goal, aside from introducing general theories from their field, is to get the kids thinking critically about their city, as well as their place and role within it.

“Houston is very different from Denver, or even Summit County,” said Hebert. “It’s just such a large city.”

But an element this avid 14er hiker and Arapahoe Basin ski enthusiast is borrowing from home and trying to instill in his Recess protégés is the importance of the environment. By lending methods for best practices — similar to ones Hebert used himself on the design team for both the Elm Hall residences at the Colorado School of Mines and Alpine Village Apartments at CU-Colorado Springs — he hopes all can learn a little more about how to positively affect their surroundings.

“We just want to impart on kids how architects have impacts on their city and community,” he said. “We should contribute to a healthier planet and be environmentally conscious. We build a background for life, and it’s important to think about the environment and context we live in because we impact it for better or worse, but ideally better.”

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