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Cheshire High School student Amanda Cashmore might only be 15 years old, but the teenager already knows what she wants to be when she grows up.
Since she was a child, which wasn't all that long ago, Cashmore has wanted to be an architect. She has wanted to build things in her mind and see them come to life in the real world.
That's why her recent second-place finish in the Home Builders Association Youth Design Contest is so significant. It isn't just about accolades or a generous scholarship award. It's confirmation that she has the talent to pursue what she loves.
“It really gave me a lot of confidence,” said Cashmore, who took second with her stone home design. “It gives me even more drive to do this and to be an architect.”
The annual event pits students in grades 10 through 12 against one another to see who can devise the best, most innovative home design possible. CHS students routinely enter the competition and, in most years, take home prizes, said teacher Sue Coco, who advises the participants in her home design class. Contestants were asked to design a three-bedroom home that was no more than 2,000 square feet.
The students could employ any possible designs they wanted, as long as the final model could, conceivably, be livable as a real home.
The submissions were put on display in Hartford at the Connecticut Convention Center.
Cashmore was the most successful of the CHS bunch this year, taking away second place honors, but she was followed closely by Nicole Pito, 16, who came in third for her innovative colonial design that incorporated a unique, staggered, three-car garage and an impressive front picture window.
“When I started out, I didn't have any idea what I wanted to do. Then, I decided I wanted to do a split-level, but that was really difficult,” said Pito. “Then, I did a colonial.”
Before this project, Pito had never dabbled in attempting a home design before, but she knew what the artist inside of her wanted.
“I wanted to make sure it looked pretty,” laughed Pito.
Making sure the house was “livable” was the real challenge, she admitted, and combining a nice design with a “functional one.”
“It was really hard making sure everything fit with only 2,000 square feet,” she said.
Cashmore had a similar dilemma. Her idea came from an HGTV show highlighting dream homes. There, she saw homes with high ceilings that looked perfect for what she wanted to design.
The planning stage of the project took “months,” she admitted and, at first, things didn't go so smoothly.
“Everything sort of went wrong,” she said, with a smile. “Nothing fit. But, I really wanted this design to work, so I kept at it.”
While Cashmore and the others began working on their projects last year, the finishing touches didn't come together until the final days before the competition.
“There were a lot of long days here at school,” said Cashmore.
“I basically lived it night and day,” added Pito.
Neither student concentrated much on the competition aspect of the event. Even though both received encouragement from their teachers, the idea of “winning” didn't really enter their minds.
“When I went up to see what the other schools had submitted, and I saw all the other designs, I thought 'I'm not going to win,'” remembered Pito. “Then, I got the call. I still can't believe it.”
Cashmore received her call a few days after her submission was put on display.
“I wasn't thinking of it as a competition but, when I got the call, I was just so excited,” she said.
While Pito and Cashmore took home prizes, all of the students who participated came away with a positive experience on which to build.
Tyler Philpott admits that the project was so hard at times, he thought about giving up and just not even submitting his model. Yet, those ideas were short lived.
“It was a relief to have it done. I proved to myself I could do it,” he said. “And, I didn't have to carry that big folder, with all those designs, around with me anymore.”
While he didn't come away with a prize, he did come away with the confidence that he could do it.
“It was hard, but it was really rewarding, and I'm glad I did it,” he stated.