The elder population of Central Texas is one of the most impacted by COVID-19 and must live isolated to remain out of risk. To provide a space for elder Texans to feel connected and safely interact with their loved ones, Alzheimer’s Texas and the Austin chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA Austin) wanted to connect with local students, architects and builders to design and build social booths.

In fall 2020, Alzheimer’s Texas and AIA Austin reached out to Workforce Solutions Capital Area to help identify students for this project. High school students designed and completed social booths that are allowing individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia to safely interact with their families over the holidays.

“These booths are love letters from the communities to the caregivers, to the families, and to the residents,” Ron Morelli, Director of Constituent Relations for Alzheimer’s Texas, said.

Seven groups of four to five students each from schools in Austin, Manor and Round Rock ISDs, KIPP public charter schools and American YouthWorks participated in designing and constructing these booths. AIA Austin connected students with local builders, and St. David’s HealthCare donated funds for the student groups to purchase materials. In addition, the Gulf Coast Carpenters & Millwrights Training Trust Fund identified a builder and donated many supplies to KIPP’s project.

These booths arrived at local assisted living facilities just in time for the holiday season!

“What the three organizations achieved by partnering with each other allowed us a whole, not only to give back to our community, but to create experiences for students to participate and learn throughout the process. The students have been so enthusiastic to provide a real-world solution to the physical separation that COVID-19 has created between individuals,” said Viviana Trevino, designer with Page Southerland Page (an architecture/engineering firm) and Co-Chair of AIA Austin Design Voice.

Workforce Solutions Capital Area provided each student with a $500 stipend through a generous grant from Texas Mutual Insurance Company. This project would not have been possible without the connections that our team of four workforce and career development outreach specialists have developed with our local school districts to identify groups of students to work on this project.

Alzheimer’s Texas recently applied to the national Alzheimer’s Association to fund additional social booths. Out of all the grant applications in the nation, Alzheimer’s Texas received a $25,000 grant to scale up this work across the state of Texas!

“Being socially connected in meaningful ways is vital to brain health and survival. We wanted to reimagine how we provided support during an incredibly stressful and isolating time,” said Catherine Campbell, Alzheimer’s Texas executive director.

“This project initially started as a way to connect families with their loved ones but also realize it’s connecting the hearts and minds of multiple generations. It’s been truly heartwarming to witness how these talented students and the central Texas community have come together to build something extraordinary,” Catherine said.

“Knowing we were all able to do something for the community feels great. I love seeing their smiles, their joy, their appreciation for what we did for them.” Calista Velarde, American YouthWorks.

“I think the booth will open more opportunities for families to see their loved ones while keeping everyone safe. I thought this project was a great opportunity to get some hands-on learning experience and a great way to give back to the community,” said Jonathan Gonzales, a student with American YouthWorks.

“Knowing we were all able to do something for the community feels great. I love seeing their smiles, their joy, their appreciation for what we did for them,” said Calista Velarde, a student with American YouthWorks.

Learn about the design process from the students and architects and how they were able to provide a safe space for connectivity in this story from Austin Design Week!

Want to know more about how Workforce Solutions Capital Area assists students, job seekers, employers and educators to explore in-demand career pathways in Central Texas? Go to!

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