Valencia Architecture Grad Heading to NY’s Cooper Union Institute

Valencia architecture student Evan Shirley has always had an artist’s eye – and that has landed him in some prestigious company.

In the fall, he’ll be continuing his architecture studies at the Cooper Union Institute for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City – one of the most prestigious architecture schools in the nation.

Founded in 1859 by industrialist Peter Cooper with the goal of education working-class New Yorkers at no cost, Cooper Union is one of the last colleges in the country that does not charge tuition. The college recently announced that it would end its free tuition policy for students who begin classes there starting in 2014.

For Evan, who will start classes in fall 2013, tuition will still be free.  But he has long set his sights on Cooper Union.

“Back when I graduated from high school, I applied to Cooper Union for the art program and got rejected,” says Evan, 25.  “I figured I’d give it another shot this time … and it worked out.”

In high school—first at Lakeland’s Harrison School for the Arts and then at Longwood’s Lyman High—Evan focused on fine arts: painting and graphic design.  Yet when he started college, he believed it wasn’t practical to get a fine arts degree.

So he began shopping around—and landed in Valencia’s architecture program. Dabbling first in architecture history and theory classes, he was hooked when he finally took his first design class.

Now he’s readying for the next adventure. He’s currently trying to line up a part-time job to help cover his living expenses. Although Cooper Union doesn’t charge tuition, students are responsible for their living expenses. So Evan, whose only work experience has been at Publix, is hoping to land a job at New York grocery stores— or as a sign maker for Whole Foods.

“It’s going to be difficult, logistically,” he says. But Evan has his eyes on yet another prize: Meeting up with his fellow Valencia architecture students Stephen Hernandez and Wesley Davis in grad school… at Yale.