When Max Gerall first swiped in at the dining hall on A&M’s campus to grab breakfast five years ago as a college freshman, he would never have imagined that the friendship he would soon develop with staff member Ms. Melissa would change everything. “She is probably one of the sweetest humans I had ever met,” Gerall recalls. “She would ask how my day was, how my tests were…it was sweet to have a ‘mom’ away from home.” After learning more about Ms. Melissa’s housing situation and similar difficulties around affordable housing faced by other campus staff, Gerall, alongside his Kappa Sigma fraternity brother Garrett Littlejohn, began searching for innovative housing solutions.
Their search led them to launching the nonprofit REACH Project. Though REACH Project initially desired to create affordable housing for Texas A&M employees, Gerall says, “We evolved from focusing solely on housing innovations to realizing that we needed to provide an environment that had everything included.” This would mean facilitating easier access to other services, such as GED and naturalization classes, personal finance trainings, and healthcare services. In the interim, Gerall and Littlejohn have established a series of high impact service opportunities, such as health fairs, for A&M students to apply their studies to serve members of the A&M system. They are also currently in the process of securing land in College Station near the university for the site of their first innovative residential educational community.
On April 12th through 14th, REACH is hosting a design charrette, where student teams of 3-5 will be challenged to come up with creative solutions to affordable housing design and construction in just 48 hours. The objective is “to spark innovation through interdisciplinary collaboration that inspires the design of multi-family housing units, a community learning center, and a year-round urban garden.” The event offers cash prizes of $6,500 and is held in partnership with Texas A&M’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, and Gensler: a global design and architecture firm. Participants will also learn more about the current challenge of affordable housing in Bryan-College Station from guest speakers, including Ms. Melissa – the inspiration for REACH. Joining the charrette as an individual or a team is free.
Gerall and Littlejohn are working on REACH full-time, and are preparing for rapid growth in the coming months. If you are interested in supporting or following their efforts, or you’re hoping to sign up to participate in the design charrette this Parent’s Weekend, you can find more information at: