Meet Jeremiah Tolbert | Member Spotlight

By Nicole Dominguez

“When I teach students in my Ripple program, I hope to affect changes in their lives, teach them to listen to underrepresented communities and help small businesses. Because my class is a class of life.”
Jeremiah Tolbert II, LEED AP, AIA
Member, 2014 AIAEB President

Jeremiah is an architect and educator who uses his intellectual equity to spread goodwill throughout his community. He is an inspiration to the youth of the East Bay and has a genuine drive to be a change-maker. He found the magic of architecture as a 2nd grader when he told his teacher during a writing assignment that he liked to draw and build things, and the moment  she put a name to the concept he loved, he knew that Architecture was his destiny.

As the owner of his firm, Tolbert Designs Architects, he has been extending himself as a designer and project manager. He is interested in problem-solving for his clients, pulling the right people together to create the perfect result. He chooses projects that bring him joy, and this is where his success lies. He has worked on everything from exorbitant treehouses for the wealthy to commercial and residential to higher education to a current project on an MMA gym, but what fulfills him the most is sharing the knowledge he has acquired from his vast experience.

During his presidency of the AIA East Bay, he created a weeklong architecture camp on the Berkeley campus for underrepresented black and Latino junior high school students. The successful program is now in its ninth year. Click here to view a recap of this years! The program is completely free giving out full scholarships to all who apply.  He also created an after school architecture class for elementary school students in West Oakland.  However, he didn’t have a program for high school students so he created and taught a class at UC Berkeley called The Ripple Effect- The Community Design Process.  In this class, he mentors Cal undergrads who in turn directly mentor the high school students who learn about the environmental design process as well as the college admission process. Collectively, the undergrads and high school students collaborate on helping a small business or non-profit by designing AND building whatever their needs are. It’s an effective way, in tandem with the New World Architects summer camp and after school program to give access to architecture to youth.

Jeremiah is incredibly proud of his recent work with his “Ripple Effect” students. They helped a small business in West Oakland called Blk Girls Greenhouse by designing and building a brand-new greenhouse.  His students experienced the real world of architecture and design as they worked within the client’s parameters and the unique needs of a small business. Projects like his are the culmination of this ripple effect as the project reached grades K-12, setting them on the path to college through architecture. He hopes to continue to affect change in students’ lives and inspire them just like his teacher did for him when he was young.

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