Press Room

Weitzman Kicks Off Summer Program with The Fresh Air Fund to Prepare Underserved Youth for Careers in Design

Today the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design announced an important leadership gift from Lori Kanter Tritsch, MArch’85, and her partner, William P. Lauder, W’83, Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board of Directors of The Estée Lauder Companies Inc. and Penn Trustee. The new gift is a part of The Power of Penn Campaign.

The generous donation supports PennPraxis Design Fellows to lead an interactive virtual course for 150 Fresh Air Fund youth ages 14-17 in July and August 2020. The course, Fresh Air Everywhere: Virtual Design Studio, will be one offering to Fresh Air youth in lieu of the traditional summer camp experience this summer.

“With a shortage of summer internship opportunities due to the limitations of COVID-19, we saw an urgent need to help design students and recent graduates gain the professional experience they need to excel in their field after graduation,” explains Kanter Tritsch, a longtime volunteer and dedicated member of the Weitzman School Board of Overseers. “Through our involvement with The Fresh Air Fund, we saw a natural synergy that would benefit Weitzman students and young alumni, and at the same time, create new opportunities for Fresh Air Fund youth impacted by the pandemic.”

The Fresh Air Fund is a not-for-profit agency that provides life-changing summer experiences for children from New York City’s underserved communities. More than 1.8 million children have benefited from The Fresh Air Fund’s summer sleepaway camp experiences and The Fund’s volunteer host family program since the agency’s founding in 1877. The Fresh Air Fund has a long history of promoting career exploration through its summer and year-round programs, making The Fund well positioned to help fill this gap in critical summer youth enrichment opportunities.

“We are grateful for the generosity and leadership of William Lauder, The Fund’s Chairman of the Board, and Lori Kanter Tritsch, a long-time Fresh Air supporter, for their vision and support of this innovative program,” says Fatima Shama, Executive Director of The Fresh Air Fund. “This creative, educational, and professional development opportunity will invite our teens and youth to broaden their horizons about potential careers and give them tools to make a lasting impact on their communities and beyond. Our students will benefit immeasurably from the guidance of PennPraxis and the faculty, graduates and students of the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design. We are thrilled to move forward together.”

Fresh Air Everywhere was created by PennPraxis, the Weitzman School’s center for applied research, outreach, and practice. Eleven outstanding young designer-teachers—recent graduates or advanced graduate students from the architecture, fine arts and landscape architecture departments at the School—have been selected as Design Fellows to shape and deliver the studio model class for teen participants with the support of Penn faculty. Penn will certify the teens’ completion of the intensive course, which requires them to commit 20 hours per week for seven weeks. Participants will receive a stipend and digital resources including internet access and a laptop or tablet if needed.

“I am extremely grateful for Lori Kanter Tritsch’s leadership over the years, and for her incredibly keen sense of what’s needed most in these times,” shares Frederick Steiner, Dean of the Weitzman School of Design and Paley Professor. “Not only did she identify the potential for a partnership between PennPraxis and The Fresh Air Fund, she was driven by a focus on high social impact. I am so pleased that this new studio will create important opportunities for underserved youth during COVID-19 today—but more importantly, I am thrilled that this gift will further the Weitzman School’s goal of supporting individuals from diverse backgrounds to become the design leaders of tomorrow.”

Through two hands-on projects, Fresh Air Everywhere will introduce students to design thinking and approaches, develop fundamental skills, and engage community conversations with design leaders and their peers. Students will first design a new nature center for Sharpe Reservation, The Fresh Air Fund’s 2000-acre property in Fishkill, NY—a project that The Fresh Air Fund may take on in the near future. The second project will be closer to home: students will design “breathing room” in their own boroughs in New York City as their subject. Breathing room might be outdoor spaces for social activity and exercise; they might be interventions to improve air quality; or they might be installations that stimulate conversation about race and space.

PennPraxis Executive Director Ellen Neises notes that the gift from Kanter Tritsch and Lauder could not have come at a better time. “Fresh Air Everywhere presents an extraordinarily timely means for Design Fellows to collaborate with youth to make a positive impact in New York neighborhoods,” she says. “The importance of creating more forms of breathing room for all of the boroughs has never been more relevant.”

In a powerful culminating experience, Fresh Air Everywhere will engage the public imagination in New York by assembling a group of leading thinkers and policymakers to discuss the students’ ideas for projects in the city. Additionally, an online gallery of the students’ work linked to themes and sites that public space experts find most resonant will be created, with the hopes of engaging the press and stimulating a wider public conversation.

In making this gift, Kanter Tritsch recognizes the transformative impact on Fresh Air Everywhere participants over the trajectory of their lives—providing a highly specialized, enriching academic experience and a launchpad for underserved, underrepresented minority youth to seek careers in design.

“The most incredible part about Fresh Air Everywhere is that participants will benefit from career coaching, letters of recommendation from Penn teachers, and the amazing opportunity to develop an online portfolio for their future careers,” she says. “We are so pleased to be able to make this partnership possible together with Penn and The Fresh Air Fund. Our hope is that other leaders in the design field will look at these challenging times as fertile ground for the growth and development of new skills, fresh ideas, and the power of human potential to help move us toward brighter futures in the months and years ahead.”

The University of Pennsylvania, founded in 1740, is an Ivy League institution with a distinctive past. Its 12 undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools are located in Philadelphia on an attractive urban campus that serves a diverse community of more than 20,000 students from throughout the nation and around the world.  Ranked consistently among the top universities in the nation, Penn has a longstanding reputation for excellence in graduate and professional education.

 The University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design prepares students to address complex sociocultural and environmental issues through thoughtful inquiry, creative expression, and innovation. As a diverse community of scholars and practitioners, Weitzman is committed to advancing the public good–both locally and globally–through art, design, planning, and preservation.

The Fresh Air Fund has provided free summer experiences to more than 1.8 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877. Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, The Fresh Air Fund will continue to provide fun, engaging and enriching programmingtomake a lasting positive impact on New York City youth and keep the magic of summer alive. The Fresh Air Fund is an independent, not-for-profit organization.

Media contact:  Jenny Laden, Associate Director, Communications and Stewardshipat jladen@design.upenn.edu.