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Internship Helps Build Student's Future

May 14, 2010

With the help of St. Louis Community College and Kwame Building Group, architecture technology student Steven Vollenweider has looked into his future and loves it. In addition to classroom learning on the Meramec campus, Vollenweider works up to 40 hours a week as an intern for Kwame at the building site of STLCC’s new Harrison Education Center on the city’s north side, an opportunity he finds profoundly rewarding.

Steve Vollenweider  
Steve Vollenweider at the Harrison Center.

"This has been the best experience of my life," Vollenweider says of his year spent working for Kwame. "I’ve learned something new every single day, something that I will take with me and use in my career."

Originally planned as a summer-only internship that began in May 2009, Vollenweider’s hard work and enthusiasm led Kwame to keep him on staff for the duration of the project scheduled to conclude this July.

As one of several students recommended by STLCC faculty, Vollenweider was ultimately selected by Kwame based on his knowledge and interest in "green" construction. In his primary role, the 20-year-old has been responsible for coordinating and documenting the requirements to ensure the project will achieve a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification. Certification is based on the number of points the design attains in five green-design categories. Vollenweider has been personally responsible for achieving one-third of the credits and monitoring the work of the subcontractors assigned to the rest.

His efforts have ensured that the project will not only meet LEED gold requirements, but exceed them in some areas. For example, more than 95 percent of the construction waste has been reused on site or recycled to date, well above the required 75 percent, and 23 percent of the building materials used at the Harrison Center site has come from recycled content, while only 15 percent is mandated for LEED gold.

"We’ve been able to use Steve’s architectural design talents in other ways, too," said Ron Roberts, Kwame’s project director at the Harrison Center site. "His involvement in verifying costs for project changes has resulted in updated methods of costing for us that can save time and money. He has brought a lot of energy and some great ideas to this project."

Vollenweider is thrilled to have been given this opportunity and is rightfully proud of his accomplishments. "This is a way for me to give back to the college." He believes STLCC has been instrumental in providing him the tools to pursue his dream of becoming a leader in community redevelopment.

Although his internship and time at STLCC may be coming to an end, Vollenweider’s education will continue. Next fall he will enroll in the architecture program at the University of Oregon, often recognized as a national leader in "green" design. He believes his hands-on experience on a LEED-certified project will enhance his credentials for years to come.

This is the second time STLCC and Kwame Building Group have partnered to provide an internship opportunity to an STLCC student. A student intern participated in the construction of STLCC’s Wildwood campus in 2007.

Vollenweider was also featured in an article by Community College Times.