Project puts interior design class' skills to test

Northeast Dubois senior Bethany Dodd, left, and junior Madison Voegerl joke around with their classmates while painting a wall during their interior design class at Northeast Dubois High School on Thursday. "It's the class I look forward to," Voegerl said. The class is working on a project to repurpose a stage area into a makerspace and student lounge. They plan to repaint the walls, install new flooring and add a television, tables and other furniture. Nic Antaya/The Herald


DUBOIS — It’s hard to imagine high school students scraping gum off school property by choice, but that’s one of the tasks this year’s interior design class at Northeast Dubois High School signed up for when they took on redesigning the school’s stage area.

The stage area, located in the cafeteria, has sat unused for several years, likely since the corporation built the multipurpose room at Dubois Middle School several years ago, Principal Tina Fawks said.

Over the years, the space became a dumping ground for the school’s unused items, so when interior design teacher Amy Mitchell asked Fawks what the class could do around the school for hands-on experience, Fawks suggested a list of ideas that included turning the stage area into a student lounge. The class was all for it. The students have been wanting a place of their own for a while.

“The other ideas really revolved around the teachers or a single school room,” junior Maggie Stephenson said. “We wanted a space for all of us.”

Senior Elizabeth Kunz agreed.

Northeast Dubois senior Lizzie Kunz, left, and junior Taylor Dodd joke around with their classmates while painting a door during their interior design class at Northeast Dubois High School on Thursday. "This is my favorite class. Especially getting to paint here, it's a big stress reliever," Dodd said. Nic Antaya/The Herald

“We’re not doing it for ourselves,” Elizabeth said. “We’re doing it for the entire student body.”

The class envisions the space as a place where students can go during the lunch hour to relax after they finish eating, as well as before and after school. The space will also have enough seating for an entire class, white boards and a TV that can hook up to laptops and tables for group work or when teachers want to hold class somewhere besides the classroom.

The students have been in control of the project from the beginning, cleaning out the room, designing the room using the Home Design 3D app on their tablets and soliciting donations from local companies.

The class already has commitments from local furniture companies Indiana Furniture and Kimball to fully furnish the room with a conference table, chairs, couches and multipurpose furniture that can be storage space and seating. Elizabeth was one of the students in charge of asking for furniture donations. She wasn’t expecting such a positive response.

“I thought we’d get maybe one or two chairs,” she said. “It was exciting. It was cool to see everyone get so excited.”

The class also got a $1,000 donation from a local family and applied for a $5,000 grant from the National Education Association to cover the cost of paint, flooring and other materials. The class will hear by the end of the month if they received the grant.

Beyond interior design skills, the students said, the project has also taught them communication skills, teamwork and patience.

Coordinating the project among all 12 students in class has been a challenge, Elizabeth said, because they don’t all have the exact same vision for the space. It’s also been a challenge to have to wait on parts of the project that require help from the school’s maintenance department, such as removing the old sound equipment.

Overall, the classmates agreed the project has been going well. They expect to have the space complete by the end of the semester.

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