Gateway Academy Takes a Field Trip to SMHa

Recently, we were excited to host a group of more than twenty young ladies who plan to start their freshman year at Wando High School this month. As part of Gateway Academy's Girls' Summer Engineering Camp, Katie Johnston - an engineering and architecture teacher at Wando, licensed SC Architect, and SMHamily member married to Senior Architect Jeff Johnston - brought these incoming students to experience what real-life is like in an architecture firm.

The hands-on program is based on Project Lead the Way®'s successful pre-engineering program offered at Wando High School, and is designed to introduce secondary school students to the fundamentals of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

After a tour of the office to see how our firm works and some of the projects we're working on, the class took a tour of Shem Creek Office Building, currently under construction down the street. It's not every day that students get a chance to walk inside a building under construction - hard hats and all - to learn how buildings work from the people who designed them.

STEM is such an important part of the curriculum - perhaps these young women will one day graduate with a related degree and join us in the field! Best of luck to them in their first year at Wando, and thanks to Katie Johnston and Gateway Academy for letting us play a small role in inspiring this new generation of Wando students!



The Blue Ridge Beckons: Thank You Clemson Interns!

We have had the pleasure of working with two very talented interns this summer; Chandler Blackwell and Harrison Novak, two Architecture majors at Clemson University who spent their summers both learning from us and teaching us.

Harrison Novak (left) and Chandler Blackwell (right)Chandler, a rising senior, is from Greenville. She serves as the Publicity Chair for Freedom By Design, a service organization created by Clemson's American Institute of Architecture Students. She loves design, and finds joy that great architecture impacts and influences communities for the better.

Harrison, a rising sophomore, is from Mount Pleasant, and previously interned with us through Wando High School's Internship Program during her senior year of high school. She carefully and painstakingly built the model for the new Town Hall, which honed her skills and creativity to help her through her first year of Architecture.

While they have been busy learning from architects of all levels in our office, Chandler and Harrison have also taught us a thing or two. We even set aside a Tuesday Lunch to learn more about their projects in school and discuss the 'big ideas' that are being taught now. Architecture is ever changing and evolving.

But as a new school year draws near and the pull of Clemson's beautiful Blue Ridge beckons them back, we want to thank these two young women. Best of luck in your upcoming year - we look forward to seeing your talents continue to grow!



In Learning, You Will Teach, and In Teaching, You Will Learn

Sam Herin, AIA was honored to participate in AIA Columbia's Mentoring and Leadership Roundtable discussion in June. Mentoring has been a tradition in practice for centuries. Architecture is a craft that takes years of education, practical experience and mentoring to successfully practice. Firms have long been a place to 'learn,' and here at SMHa we take seriously our role to continually educate our young and old!

It seems Phil Collins got it right in this song: "In learning, you will teach, and in teaching, you will learn."


Leaving Your Mark

Odds are, you've left your 'mark' once or twice as a youngster, scrawling "I was here" and the date on a school desk, a bathroom wall or some public place. Believe it or not, it's been happening for decades, and was originally known as hobo graffiti. In the late 1800s and early 1900s when the rail system was chugging along but telephones were scarce, this was a way for transients to say that they had been in that place on that date, sometimes an arrow pointing the direction they were heading - actually a sort of communication system, and very understated compared to today's graffiti.

While on site at the Old Berkeley County High School, getting some measurements and site information to work on stabilization and rehab of the circa 1929 building, SMHa designers came across what appears to have been a tradition for students (and from the handwriting, perhaps teachers too), leaving their mark on the exterior bricks of the old school. While these were students and teachers rather than rail-riding hobos, we were surprised to find that some of their graffiti has lasted for 86 years!

Makes you wonder whatever happened to your handiwork from years past, and who may one day come across it!


When One Door Opens: Building Doors to Freedom

A few years ago, Doors to Freedom founder and director Sharon Rikard spoke at an East Cooper Breakfast Rotary Club meeting about sex trafficking right here in the Lowcountry community, and how her program was helping young victims become whole again and safely reenter the world.

“In 2011, South Carolina didn’t have adequate anti-trafficking laws. There was a lack of awareness, and victims were being treated as criminals. In 2012, the laws were changed to allow stricter penalties for trafficking, and decriminalized young girls. Awareness is growing, but there is no safe place for the victims to go. The US has a population of at least 100,000 children we know are being trafficked, and because it’s a hidden crime, we estimate it is more likely to be about 300,000,” explains Rikard.

Charles Muldrow was moved by what she had to say at the Rotary meeting, and afterward handed her his card – SMHa had recently completed a residential treatment facility and would be happy to provide insight and services to help Doors to Freedom (which was currently operating out of an office) open a safe, secure place for these young girls to begin new lives.

Today, the renovation is underway, and when complete in early 2017, will be the first domestic minor sex trafficking safe home in South Carolina. The facility will be home for up to ten survivors of sex trafficking at a time, plus 24-hour staff. It will be a safe haven, providing these girls – aged 12 to 20 – a secure place to live, receive an education, learn basic life skills, get therapy and more.

“For most of these victims, their lives have always lacked parental guidance. Pimps offer them comfort as a father- or boyfriend-figure to gain their trust, and then start the physical and psychological abuse as they’re forced into trafficking. They are afraid to run for fear of being severely beaten, gang raped or having their family threatened,” says Rikard. “These girls are controlled from such a young age; they’re told when and what to eat, what to wear, when to go to the bathroom. A lot of them never learned basic skills like budgeting, intentional scheduling, or even using a dishwasher. They don’t have hobbies or skills because no one has taken time to cultivate them.”

Doors to Freedom helps these residents learn to make choices, discover that they have dreams and goals, and leads them on a path to reach them. Using a three-phase program, staff dedicate their time to building trusting relationships with these victims, helping them overcome their anxieties and fears developed from what they have endured, and teaching them the life skills they are lacking. The girls will be able to stay at Doors to Freedom for up to two years before Phase 3 transitions them into a therapeutic foster home.

“We help these young girls realize their value and restore their dignity to become whole, young women. We help them go back into the world and follow their dreams,” says Rikard.

Many thanks to those who have joined the SMHa design team to provide free-of-charge services and even some materials to help make Doors to Freedom’s new home a reality: DWG Consulting Engineers, S&ME, Inc. and PASCO.

If you’d like to help make a difference for Doors to Freedom, you can donate online at or send a donation to the mailing address:

Doors to Freedom                                                                                                                   1317 M North Main Street                                                                                                     #263                                                                                                                                       Summerville, SC 29483