Design Students Help Homeless Vets

Design Students Help Homeless Vets

In the midst of finals week, two Mesa Community College students pushed through long hours of studying while working on a project for homeless veterans at the same time.

The result: Interior Design students Jocelyn Abruzzese and Tricia Finchum placed first in the “Design for Hope” competition by designing a kitchen using repurposed and reclaimed materials. The competition was sponsored by Stardust Building Supplies, retail centers that provide reclaimed and gently-used building materials to the community, making home repairs and remodeling more affordable and sustainable.

The students learned about the project from the American Society of Interior Designers. Stardust Building Supplies opened a new store in Phoenix and the students’ competition entry, a 4-foot by 4-foot vignette of their design, was on display there in May.

“It was a great experience,” Abruzzese said.  “We worked with Arizona Opportunities Industrialization Center, a charity that helps homeless veterans obtain jobs. For our design, we used as many repurposed materials as possible.”

Their design statement shows much thought behind their design process.

“Reused bamboo flooring, made from a grass that grows so fast you can measure growth in hours, provides a foundation for this kitchen, alluding to the notion that you can make great strides in growth, given the right environment,” the students wrote. “A backsplash made from the remnants of shipping pallets, along with glass tiles from once sparkling chandeliers, now bring texture into the kitchen as a reminder that sometimes life is rough, but we can work to make things go more smoothly.”

The students won by popular vote that raised money for the project. Their design will be installed into the homes of families in need.

“We’re very excited to win,” Abruzzese said. “We’re interested in sustainable building, where you don’t use new materials and add to the waste in landfills. The whole experience was really good. We were helping veterans while learning at the same time and working with other designers.”

Antonia Adams-Clement, director of Educational and Special Services at MCC, said MCC’s Veterans Service Department works with approximately 1,000 students per semester. She was moved by the commitment of the interior design students.

“The work of our MCC design students is part of an important national initiative to end veteran homelessness,” Antonia said.  “Their contribution will touch many lives, now - and in the future."

About Mesa Community College

Mesa Community College provides outstanding transfer and career and technical programs, workforce development, and life-long learning opportunities to residents of the East Valley area of Phoenix, Arizona. MCC excels in teaching, learning and empowering its more than 40,000 students to succeed in a local and global community.  Mesa Community College is one of ten colleges that comprise the Maricopa County Community College District.

Please direct media inquiries to Sally Mesarosh at or the Office of Institutional Advancement at 480-461-7445.  IA website:

Source Details

Publication Date: 
Thursday, May 30, 2013