For years, architecture teacher James Keough has had Vanguard Award posters hanging in his classroom.
The posters show girls as successful architects and boys confidently taking a patient’s blood pressure.
Every year, he’s hoped that one of his students would excel in courses for a nontraditional career, and win the award.
Twice, a student of his was nominated.
Neither student won.
Then, on Wednesday, his third nominee brought the award home.
Brenda Parker, who leads the way in construction and architecture classes full of boys, won the Vanguard Award for her “dedication, wisdom, maturity and insight.”
The award sponsors called her a role model, and Keough heartily agreed.
“She’s willing to put in the effort to improve, not just in my classes, in everything. It’s contagious, just like the bad behavior,” he said. “So they see that, they want to do it. It helps, [having] that level of student.”
Parker is studying pre-architecture at Steinmetz Career & Leadership Academy, Schenectady’s smaller high school. It offers classes in computer-aided architectural design and other specialized subjects.
The award comes with only a $100 prize, but lots of cachet.
That’s why Parker wanted it.
“So colleges see that I try and I’m focused,” she said.
The news of her win has given her renewed focus.
“That drive that I have, this keeps me going,” she said.
Parker won the award with three other students in the state who are pursuing nontraditional careers for their gender.
The Vanguard Award is administered by the state’s Nontraditional Employment & Training Project, which is funded by a grant from the state Education Department.
The project’s goal is to prepare students for the 21st century workforce by promoting gender-nuetral ways to teach.