To celebrate our inspiring Oakland School Volunteers, we’re asking them to share their stories. These are their Volunteer Voices.
Design Firm KTGY Adopts Madison Park Middle School
KTGY is an award-winning international architecture and design firm with offices in Oakland’s Jack London Square. Earlier this year, they became our sixth Adopt a School partner when they adopted Madison Park Business & Art Academy. We connected with KTGY Senior Planner Cindy Ma and Job Captain Adam Potter to learn more about why their office decided to step up for Oakland kids, and the surprising benefits for their staff team.
Ed Fund: Why has KTGY decided to make this ongoing volunteer commitment and donate so much time and energy to support Oakland students?
Cindy Ma: Last year, KTGY’s Oakland office celebrated 11 years as a local business. Reflecting on the time we have been part of the Oakland business community and with an office move (to another Oakland location) slated for the summer of this year, we found it was a great opportunity to reinforce our commitment to the city and community we love being part of. In brainstorming how we could strengthen our ties with the Oakland community, we thought what better way to give back than to engage with local youth and share with them our profession. The adopt-a-school program presented the perfect opportunity for KTGY to continue one of our core mission statement values of “commitment to community and the environment…by giving selflessly of our time and resources to a greater good.”
We would recommend adopting an Oakland school to other local businesses. Thus far it has been a rewarding experience that has provided us with opportunities to strengthen the team building within our company, reinforce our connection to Oakland’s community, share our profession with potential future architects and planners, work with an invested school and their staff, and gain new knowledge in multiple ways from an exciting and energetic bunch of 6th-graders!
EF: Why do you think it’s important for students to have opportunities to work with adult volunteers in their community?
CM: As an architecture and planning firm, we find it is important to expose as many young people to design and planning processes and professions as possible. We all design and plan daily in our lives, but just in different capacities. Whether it is deciding what we will wear, what we will eat, how we will get to once place or another, or where we want to go, design and planning are all around us.
Through volunteering our time, we hope that we can help educate, provide an example, and also provide a mirror for the students at Madison Park about the design and planning processes and professions. It’s not often that young people get to interact with adult professionals on a project and processes—we feel it would be fruitful for them, and us, to go through this experience so the students can have exposure to future career opportunities, start learning about the importance of their role as young citizens in the communities they are part of (and how to participate to help shape it), and for us as professionals to continuously stay in touch with the community we work in and evolve our professional skills.
EF: What are the team building benefits your company has noticed so far?
Adam Potter: The outreach program has developed personal relationships within the office by creatively implementing and developing a program founded in architecture yet expanding upon the concept of community. As personal relationships prosper, it fosters a level of trust and respect between colleagues that allows exploration of unique approaches to problem solving and team building.
The daily activities of architects are very hectic and often we are consumed by projects. The outreach program has given the team an opportunity to step back from our busy schedule and remember why we fell in love with architecture in the first place. Reinvigorating our personal enthusiasm for the profession is essential for success mentally and creatively, resulting in a renewed comment to design excellence.
EF: What do you think is special about working with 6th-graders in particular?
AP: When interacting with 6th-grade youth, it challenges your approach to presenting the material. They are advanced enough to grasp the basic concepts, yet perhaps not as sophisticated to understand the architectural jargon so prevalent in the profession. Our presentation was stripped down to the essential message, focusing the potentially complicated material into specific, easy-to-understand information that not only engages but inspires as well.
Young people are the foundation of our future. Often we overlook the importance of nurturing their spirit and inspiring them to strive to overcome obstacles and develop into productive members of society. Personally the outreach program gave me a special moment when I recognized the spark of interest in a student. Initially most of the students were shy and reserved, but somewhere during the presentation, we made the personal connection with this student and began to engage their interest and participation. This moment made the entire experience priceless!
Thank you to the entire staff volunteer team at KTGY for their thoughtful teaching and conversations with Madison Park students! We can’t wait to see what grows out of this match over the next year.
Want to highlight your business’s commitment to the Oakland community, build team relationships in a rewarding way, and get the next generation interested in your field? Please join us as an Adopt an Oakland School partner! Learn more about the program here and complete this interest form.