Taking a leap of faith, Alex Pojdenic (NBC 2018) quit his job in an effort to refocus time and attention full-time on the things he was passionate about. While this leap of faith was liberating in many respects, it wasn’t necessarily a financially liberating action. With limited funds, Alex undertook his own course of study in ecological design and building by pursuing a variety of different education and work experiences. As a part of that study, he completed a Permaculture Design course, and also apprenticed with a farmer and designer for several months.
After reading many books on building and design (including Ace and Jacob's book, The Natural Building Companion), and being inspired from afar, Alex was ready to learn first-hand, and finally put these skills into action both personally as well as professionally. When applying for the Natural Building Certificate, Alex explained what he hoped to gain from the program. "Professionally, I'm at the beginning of a second career phase, and my other main interest in the certificate program is to focus my career goals, gain appropriate skills, and make connections within the natural building community. With new skills, confidence in techniques, community connections, and support, I think the certificate program will greatly accelerate this next phase in life for me. I want to contribute to my community, hone a craft which is valued, and make my livelihood doing something which positively influences human health and existence. I see the natural building certificate as a way to achieve all of these objectives. It practical terms, it will give me the skills to work or apprentice for others, or even eventually start my own business."
Personally and professionally, his goals began to align when he enrolled in the Natural Building Certificate. Given his liberated financial state, Alex applied for and was awarded a scholarship for the program. Without this scholarship, it would have been impossible for Alex to attend the program.
In late Fall 2018, Alex reflected on his time at Yestermorrow. "The course by far exceeded expectations in that it was really a high performance building course hidden within Natural Building. We learned to evaluate, design, and build to a very high performance standard, period. And then on top of that we took a close look at each barrier, layer, and system, and compared and contrasted high-tech, high embodied energy solutions with their natural analogs, which it turns out often out perform many modern engineered materials. It wasn't just a bunch of hippies smearing clay on each other, though that's also a really important part!"
"A highlight of the program was getting to take these themes and run with them for a final project under the guidance of our instructors and mentors. I chose to do a tools and techniques practicum in three different natural roofing methods - slate, riven wood, and thatch. I loved researching the harvesting of natural materials, and their associated communities, livelihoods, and methods, and then trying my hand at the same techniques. The practicum enabled me to focus in on potential career goals, such as working in historical restoration, and also think about deeper connections to the environment and community. Common reed used for thatching is considered an "invasive" in the North East, but could the problem be a solution to a new micro industry, producing high skilled jobs and local carbon neutral building materials? Ideas like these are inspiring my next steps and ways I'd like to build a career while contributing to my community."
Following the Natural Building Certificate, Alex has been busy working with a client to design an art studio and pond, while also doing some leather work part-time. He plans to continue exploring themes of sustainability by incorporating living natural systems into his designs, including the people and communities around them.
Without the help of donors, Yestermorrow would not be able to offer scholarships to students like Alex and the many others who continue to make positive impacts in their communities for years to come.
If you'd like to support more students like Alex, please consider making a gift to the Yestermorrow Scholarship Fund.
To learn more and to apply for the Natural Building Certificate, please click here.