Too Cool for School

By Christine Pasalo

Most kids dread the sight of a yellow bus. But for Akash Patel and Ian Torbett, high school juniors at Carlsbad's Paci?c Ridge School, one such transport stranded in a remote Mexican ?shing village is a vehicle of promise.

Last April, in search of a education-related service project, Patel contacted family friend Richard Kiy, president of International Community Foundation (ICF), a National City-based organization that promotes philanthropy across the border.

Kiy pointed Patel toward a rusty, broken-down bus, abandoned near a schoolyard in Ejido Luis Echeverría Alvarez, a community on the shore of San Ignacio Lagoon, located about halfway between San Diego and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The vehicle's backstory fascinated and touched the Patel.

Until several years ago, the village's youth-to continue their education beyond middle school-rode the bus two hours to a high school in the nearest main town. When the vehicle broke down, there were no funds to repair it.

Learning this, Patel and schoolmate Torbett hit on an idea that would both utilize the stuck bus and deliver needed education to the village's heart: convert the old chassis into a gleaming new library and community center. Calling the endeavor "Project Bus," they reached out to San Diego's NewSchool of Architecture and Design (NSAD) for ideas.

NSAD adjunct faculty member Carlos Graizbord and a student architect group led by Leslie Ryan, chair of NSAD's Landscape Architecture Program, responded enthusiastically-creating practical yet environmentally compatible concepts for the bus. With the village's exposure to coastal winds and 100-plus-degree temperatures, designs included a sturdy shade structure to protect the vehicle and its library stock as well as their users.

Solar panels atop the sail-like A-frame roof would provide the center with sustainable electricity, while pathways paved with native shells and landscaping comprised of indigenous plants would integrate the facility into its natural setting.

Patel notes that the ?nal design selection rests with the village. "We need the community's input," he says. "It's their project, ?rst and foremost."

Patel and Torbett also need funding to realize their vision. So far, using ICF's website, they've raised about a third of the roughly $30,000 it will take to convert the bus.

"It's been rewarding," says Patel. "Even if I have to sacri?ce socializing with my friends, it's worth it."

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