Kevonna Henderson shows off a jacket she was asked to create with lots of bling for a birthday celebration. Henderson, a senior, has taken every Clothing Construction class at Homewood-Flossmoor High School and appreciates the updates to the classroom. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
Education, Local News

New Spaces: H-F gives growing programs needed updates

Creativity got a boost this semester when Homewood-Flossmoor High School opened two newly designed spaces for students in Clothing Construction and Interior Design classes.

The nearly $4 million remodeling project in the North Building converted what had been a wrestling room before the Career and Technical Education programs took it over, redesigning it into two work/classroom spaces and adding an adjoining space with storage and a sink for easy project cleanup. The $4 million also will include updating the culinary arts area which is under construction.

Kevonna Henderson shows off a jacket she was asked to create with lots of bling for a birthday celebration. Henderson, a senior, has taken every Clothing Construction class at Homewood-Flossmoor High School and appreciates the updates to the classroom. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
Kevonna Henderson shows off a jacket she was asked to create with lots of bling for a birthday celebration. Henderson, a senior, has taken every Clothing Construction class at Homewood-Flossmoor High School and appreciates the updates to the classroom. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

“Our new design labs provide students with state-of-the-art equipment and workspaces that mirror those in the clothing construction and interior design industries,” said Jen Hester, H-F director of curriculum and instruction. “These innovative spaces have been created to provide our high school students with an immersive and hands-on learning experience. By integrating technology, versatile workstations and collaborative areas, our Design Labs empower students to unleash their creativity while building skills to help them during their post-secondary journey.”

The fashion basics

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Teacher Alyssa Marassa, who’s been on the H-F faculty the past eight years, designed and expanded the curriculum. During her time at H-F, Marassa has quadrupled the Clothing Construction classes from the original single class she started with. She has three sections of Clothing Construction and a section of Advanced Clothing Construction. Both are year-long classes.

She works with about 100 students, both boys and girls. The first semester they learn the basics. Their first project is creating a pillow. It’s a straight-line project that acclimates students to measuring, cutting and operating a sewing machine.

Their second project, pajama bottoms, teaches them how to cut a pattern, measure, create a casing for a waistband and hemming. For the third project, Marassa has students create mittens. It’s a good way to introduce techniques for working with knit fabric.

In the second semester, they advance to making a hoodie. Their final project is their choice “because by then they’re getting excited” by what they can make, Marassa said.

Freshman Madeline McGathey of Chicago Heights already has selected a dress pattern for her final project. Marassa will grade students on their creativity and abilities at incorporating the sewing techniques into the garment.

Her new Clothing Construction classroom gives her about 25% more space, and more amenities.

“In the old space, we had two spaces – one for sewing and a learning room and it was really tight,” Marassa said. “Now we have one big room” with four overhead televisions projecting video lessons to all in the room. In the center are two long counters with storage for student bins underneath.

The redesigned space gave students a changing space, so they don’t need to go down the hall to a North Building bathroom. Screen printing requires inks, so the added sink is invaluable for cleaning up. New flooring and improved lighting make for a pleasant environment. Rather than having power available from floor outlets, overhead power sources will drop down to the students working at the counters.

The room hums as students use the 24 sewing machines paired along the classroom walls, their bins of colorful fabric and sewing utensils on the floor or beside them.

Students appreciate the changes. Na’imah Calhoun, a sophomore from Flossmoor, said last semester some students cut fabric on the floor because there was only one work table. She likes the new TVs around the room that give all students better views, and she appreciates the foldout ironing board.

Advanced Clothing Construction student Kevonna Henderson, a senior from Homewood, is in her fourth year fashion class, and intends to major in clothing design in college. She’s so good, that she’s been solicited through social media to create clothing, including a men’s jacket with lots of bling that she’s working on now. It sits on a mannequin at the back of the class.
“I feel like (the new space) already has helped. We got space and new equipment, and the mannequin – we didn’t have that before, so that really helped me,” Henderson said, showing off her creation.

In addition to the scheduled Clothing Construction classes, Marassa mentors the Clothing Construction Club that meets once a week after school. The club is open to all H-F students, whether they are currently in clothing classes or not. The teacher said she has students who want to sew but don’t have time in their schedules to take the advanced class, so it’s a good time for them to work on a project.

Learning to design a space

What can you do with a blank wall, a small space, a great room?

Students in the Interior Design class at H-F spend a year plotting out spaces for imaginary customers after learning some of the basics from Marassa, who also teaches the Interior Design class. This program also got a new classroom space. To make it easier to work on projects, desks were replaced with tables and the room has a wall of storage options.

The Interior Design program starts with students learning “about the elements and principles of design. We go from big to small. We look at floors and walls, furniture, room styles, accents, accessories,” Marassa said, and then students work on specialty projects “where we do tiny homes, miniature models, outdoor living spaces.”

Styles and cost go into the mix, she said. Students need to become familiar with the client’s needs and learn what the budget allows – is it fine furniture, or rec room furniture? Is it one person or a family? Are you asked to design the whole room, or are you just looking for accent pieces?

Students have created “tiny homes,” models of a house exterior and interior, to scale. It gives them a chance to see what’s possible and how furniture fits in a room.

Interior Design is one of a range of classes offered through the Careers and Technical Education curriculum meant to help students transition into the world of work after graduation, or take skills into a college curriculum.

“I want to get into real estate when I’m older, and build houses from the ground up,” said junior Rhaigan Myles of Hazel Crest. The course “would help me with my interiors.”

Sa’nya Burl, a sophomore, is in the class “because I like being creative” and sophomore Isaac Carrizales thought it would be useful for a future career in electrical engineering.

“The benefits of these new spaces extend far beyond the classroom,” Hester said. “As students dive into technical challenges, they develop critical thinking, problem-solving and teamwork skills essential for success in college and careers. The students have more opportunities with the new space to explore a variety of avenues in the clothing and interior design industries and build an expansive portfolio for their future.”

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