STRUCTURES OF SUPPORT: Alternative High Schools, Teen Centers, and Youth Academies

Room: F150-151

Furnished by: Smith System

Audience: Architects

Smith System

Call to Action: Advocate for change – find community partners to promote positive social change that impacts student success Consider incorporating teen centers in existing buildings to provide systems of support for at risk students Good design should consider all levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Abstract: The growing national focus on mental, emotional, and physical health has positioned K12 buildings and Districts at the heart of what it means to truly support students. In Utah, this is coupled with an increasing number of students who are struggling to meet basic needs. In 2023 MHTN Architects collaborated with the Policy Project, a non-profit, non-partisan organization to promote solution-based policies to remove barriers to opportunity for students. This advocacy allowed for $15 million appropriated by the Utah Legislature for Districts to build Teen Centers within existing high schools buildings.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Understand the role of architecture in promoting mental, emotional, and physical health within K12 buildings and Districts, particularly in the context of supporting students facing challenges meeting basic needs.
  2. Explore the collaborative efforts between architectural firms, non-profit organizations, and governmental bodies in advocating for solution-based policies to address barriers to opportunity for students.
  3. Analyze the design principles and considerations involved in integrating Teen Centers within existing high school buildings, considering factors such as spatial layout, accessibility, and functionality to effectively support the diverse needs of students.
  4. Evaluate the potential impact of support structures on the overall well-being and academic success of students within K12 districts, utilizing evidence-based research and case studies to inform decision-making and future architectural practices.
Scott Later, AIA
Scott Later, AIA
Principal, MHTN Architects

“My passion lies in our collective ability to create beautiful, engaging learning environments that will ultimately shape and define the next generation.” As an Principal at MHTN, Scott’s focus is ensuring every K-12 project meet District’s educational and facility vision. He graduated with a degree in English before pursuing a career in Architecture through Miami University. Scott is an active member of A4LE and serves as President of the local Utah chapter.

Ben Hansen, AIA, ALEP
Ben Hansen, AIA, ALEP
Associate Principal, MHTN Architects

“I take great joy in collaborating with local school districts to create 21st Century learning environments tailored to the needs of the teachers and students of their community.” As an ALEP and the K12 Learning Environments Director at MHTN, Ben is responsible for designing fantastic learning environments that respond to evolving teaching curriculum and local community needs. Ben graduated from the University of Utah and has been a part of many award-winning projects at MHTN.

Haley Costomoris, NCIDQ
Haley Costomoris, NCIDQ
Senior Interior Designer, MHTN Architects

“Experiential design cultivates a memorable learning and teaching experience. I am devoted to creating a transformative environment that enhances our ability to learn.” Haley, an experienced interior and architectural designer with a Master’s in Architecture from the University of Utah, specializes in K12 school design. Her background in high-end residential, commercial, and hospitality spaces informs her creation of immersive environments that blend art, functionality, and education, offering a unique vision in school design.

Core Competency

Design of Educational Facilities
Acts as a resource to the design team in providing ongoing guidance and support to ensure that the emerging and ultimate design aligns with the established community vision, education goals, future programming, written design standards, best/next practices and education policy.

LearningSCAPES 2024 Conference in Portland, Oregon


Oregon Convention Center
777 NE Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, Portland, OR 97232


October 16-19, 2024


+1 480.391.0840