“Even a brick wants to be something,” shared Luis Kahn as he lectured about his journey as an American Architect.
Kahn’s statement may leave some puzzled; a brick is a simple inanimate object. However, Kahn’s ability to see in the inanimate what it could become is the very skill that made him one of the most well-known architects in American history.
This ability to see beyond what the common, ordinary eye can see is one shared by Ralph, a 16-year-old boy from Miami, Florida.
“Since I was a kid, I have always liked buildings and learning more about them,” Ralph shared as he gazed upon a high-rise building in the heart of Miami. “If you really sit down and look at a building, it is really creative how people make them. It’s smart how someone can put this and that together and create something whole.”
Molding a brick
The circumstances of Ralph’s life overlap in many ways with the brick.
Brick is a substance made from hardened clay. Many times, bricks can be seen lying around in piles of dilapidated buildings, appearing to be lifeless and without much hope for a future.
However, those with a vision like Kahn can look at a pile of brick sitting in ruins and see the very foundation of a masterfully designed structure. All that is needed is for the artist to come along, take the brick within skilled hands, and begin to create.
Just as an expert architect takes the brick into skilled hands, Ralph and his support system have done the same with his life with a vision to build something extraordinary.
Ralph was born into a life of struggle and poverty in Port Au Prince, Haiti, where he spent his formative years. When he was 7 years old, his grandfather, his mother, and his brother made the journey to America to pursue a better future– more specifically in Miami.
Though Ralph’s grandfather desired a better future for his family, additional struggles met the family when they arrived . The family struggled with instability and as financial difficulties ensued it became difficult for the family to acquire housing, especially in a neighborhood that would lend itself to safety and positive influences for a young boy.
Ralph’s environmental influences began to lead him into an influx of troubled situations and eventually, at just 11 years old, he was introduced to the juvenile justice system.
“Growing up I really had no choices but to do some of the things I did. At the time I thought I was just being a kid,” Ralph shared. “But those things ended up coming with consequences and I had to learn the hard way. I’m glad they did because it helped me see better opportunities and a future for myself.”
Working for a better future
Ralph has diligently worked to create steppingstones from these circumstances that once proved to be obstacles. With a vision for his future, Ralph searched to find ways he could overcome his past struggles and environmental barriers.
His plan of action launched with his dream of becoming a high school graduate. Not only was he able to reach this goal, but his determination also helped him become a graduate at just 16 years old. Earlier this year, he officially became a member of the graduating class of 2021.
Next on his lengthy list of goals was to get an official Identification card and use it to find his first job. Both tasks were achieved with the support of his Eckerd Connects Project Bridge support team, including additional vocational training and certifications to help him in future employment endeavors.
Creating a masterpiece
Now Ralph has set out to reach his most cherished life-long goals – to become an architect and a provider for his mother.
“I see me being a successful man. I can see myself as a mature, responsible, generous man,” Ralph shared when asked about how he envisions himself growing into an adult. “My goals are to become an architect and move my mama out of the hood. She has always been there for me. She cares about me. She is my biggest supporter, and she raised a soldier. She deserves the best.”
Ralph is currently working full-time to help sustain his family’s financial needs and is working with Project Bridge Program Manager Yolonda Rucker in making strides toward his architectural goal.
Once the financial aid documentation and college application documentation are completed, Ralph will be a first-year student at Miami-Dade college and another step closer to becoming an architect.
“He has a sense of humor, an overall energy and always has a new perspective,” Rucker shared. “He has a pure, raw talent. Whatever he sets his mind to he will accomplish.”
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