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iScholar Students Win National Design Competition for Second Time

A group of Durham high school students part of the iScholar program have won a national design competition for the second time. 

Developed by Associate Professor DeLeon Gray, iScholar is an after-school program that gives students the opportunity to collaborate on meaningful projects and speak to issues they identify within their own communities while developing a sense of belonging

In May, the iScholar team – led by NC State College of Education doctoral student Joanna Ali – won the Southeast Region the Association for Learning Environments’ international design competition for their Sustainable Open Learning (SOL) Academy concept design. In June, their design won first place in the national level of the competition and the team has been invited to travel to Chicago this fall to represent NC State. 

The SOL Academy is a high school designed with the mission of sustaining the culture and mental health of students. The school’s acronym, SOL, is also the Spanish word for sun and is reflective of the fact that the building is powered by solar panels and incorporates outdoor learning spaces. The term is also a play on words, as the school aims to touch the soul of every student by supporting their mental health, Ali said. 

The school design utilizes hip-hop architecture and trauma-informed design frameworks to honor culture and create a sense of empowerment for youth while allowing all students to adapt spaces within the school to their own personal creativity. 
High school students on the iScholar team previously won first place in the Association for Learning Environments national design competition in 2019 for their innovative school of the future.