Roger Molina-Vera, 20 year alumni interview (Feb 2019)

Name: Roger Molina-Vera
Profession: Architect
Residence: New York, NY
Age: 34

How/When did you get involved with Architreasures:
I started with Architreasures in ‘98 – I was finishing up 8th grade at Pulaski Academy. The transfer to Pulaski from my primary school had been arduous. I fell victim to bullying, teasing and violence. When Architreasures came into my life, it was a godsend. It was an escape from reality, offering new possibilities and opening a door into what the future could be.

What was your role there and what about that experience was most impactful:
I started with Architreasures on a multi-season garden renovation project. We were involved in the design and construction process, and we got our hands dirty. I remember Anthony Zahner <Architreasures instructor and mentor> the most out of this experience. He saw me at a time when I felt invisible, insignificant and worthless. Anthony heard my ideas, encouraged me to be ambitious and inspired me to continue thinking creatively. Anthony nurtured and promoted my ideas to the class, albeit to my embarrassment at the time.

When you were a small child, what was your dream job:
When I was in 6th grade I fell in love with social studies. I had always loved history – anything that took me to another land. It allowed me to escape the reality that was my school situation. I wanted to be an archaeologist or Egyptologist. I loved to read Greek, Roman, Norse and Mesopotamian mythology. I was mesmerized with the etchings of Greek agoras and Roman forum temples. I knew I wanted to build my own forum, my acropolis.

Who were your biggest influences growing up/now:
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi’s shared ideology of passive resistance, their movements, the influence that they continue in our world inspires me to this day. I want to thank Anthony. I know it wasn’t part of his job description but he saved me. Lastly, and most importantly, my mother. Nothing would have been possible without her love, support, and understanding.

What are you most proud of:
I am most proud of 10-14 year old me. I’m proud of that little shy, bookworm, closeted queer brown kid who never gave up, who never gave in to peer pressure, who listened to his mother, and took it one day at a time and dreamed of more. It may sound cliche, but it really was a feat for me to not only graduate high school and continue to college, but finish grade school alive and enter one of Chicago’s top high schools, subsequently landing at prestigious universities which have taken me around the world. I’m still proud of little me’s (I’m still little) resilience.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received:
Fail Early, Fail Often, Fail Forward. What I mean is go for EVERY dream. You may not always be successful, but you learn from your experiences. Don’t hold yourself back from experiences and the opportunity for growth.

If you could offer Architreasures a piece of advice, what would it be:
Expand expand expand into every inner-city school possible and, please, keep a look out for the quiet kid in the back. You have the power to save at least one kid.

What would you tell Chicago kids, if you could:
Be Kind! Be Good! Be Different! Be Wild!