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'Building dollhouses out of boxes was my forte' | She's now among the less than 1% of Black women architects in America

Sharon Graeber is the architect behind the designs of churches, schools buildings and homes across Greensboro!

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Do any of these places sound familiar: St. Matthews United Methodist Church, Grace Lutheran Church, New Zion Missionary Baptist Church, Gibsonville Elementary Replacement School, New Eastern Guilford High School or the Corbett Annex Recreation Center on the campus of NC A&T? All of these places have one thing in common: Sharon Graeber. She's helped on all of these projects as an architect.

"Recently, I obtained my interior designer's license in the state of North Carolina," Sharon Graeber, a registered architect, said. "I had stayed away from that on purpose because it was hard enough being a black female architect and being accepted as an architect!"

Since 1989, Graeber has been indulged in the nitty-gritty of designing buildings as a registered architect. 

"I grew up an only kid, so building doll houses out of boxes was my forte," Graeber said.

Her dad planted seeds of inspiration. 

"Even though I wanted to pursue a career field that wasn't traditionally for women he never said never," Graeber said. 

Graeber says, in the 80s, it was also an untraditional space for African-Americans. 

"When I received my master’s degree, I was the only black female and only black, “ Graeber said.

As a kid growing up in Greensboro during integration, Graeber says she and her neighbors who were also African-American would dream of success. 

"We used to get together and talk about what we wanted to be when we grew up," Graeber said. "So far that neighborhood has generated, a judge, a cardiac surgeon, a radiologist, a general practitioner, and two more architects."

Graeber has been the architect behind several buildings across town like the Gibsonville Elementary Replacement School.

"My mom had taught school there and she retired from there," Graeber said. "She passed in 1998 so [it meant a lot] to be able to come back and to do the replacement as a part of a joint venture with the Adams Group. Graham Adams was the TA, when I was at school at NC State."

A full circle moment for Graeber, from a young girl dreaming to living out her architectural dreams.

"If your spirit is telling you that you want to create, you want to draw, you want to help others, go for it," Graeber said.

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