SANTA CRUZ, CA • February 1, 2015 • On February 9th, the house that Kendall Ronzano built will leave Santa Cruz on an 18-foot trailer and journey to Austin, Texas, where it will become the newest member of a twenty-seven acre transformational homeless community called Community First!
Ronzano’s “Nerd Girl Homes” is an organization and project inspired from one of her childhood goals. “My parents always encouraged me to dream big. One idea that really stuck with me was that I wanted to learn to build a house from the ground up. And I have.” The tiny house, a 117-square-foot structure mounted on an 18-foot trailer, smells like fresh pine. It consists of a living room, dining area, kitchen, bathroom, and loft-style bedroom and is intended to house one to three occupants.
“Three and a half years ago I was ordering plans and making phone calls to companies, pitching for support. Then I built my website and started receiving donations. I was feeling pretty good by this point, despite the misgivings of a few naysayers who questioned my ability as a 16 year old girl.” But those disheartening experiences yielded a fire in her gut. “It hit a heartstring,” she says. “Somebody was underestimating my abilities by stereotyping me. I decided at that moment that I would never let anyone have power over my dreams.” In fact, when the most vocal naysayer (whom she subsequently named “Mr. Meany Pants”) got his first glimpse of the tiny house project, he said, “That is one determined kid!” Mr. Meany Pants eventually wrote her a beautiful apology letter as the project neared completion and she headed off to Dartmouth college.
Beginning the summer between sophomore and junior year of high school, Ronzano devoted 800+ hours toward the Nerd Girl Homes project prior to graduation. Today the tiny house project approaches its close. “It is a bittersweet realization that my four-year journey with the tiny house is coming to an end. There were many obstacles, coupled with the tremendous support of more than 200 donors and community supporters. It has been a labor of love and curiosity,” she tells.
Financial support has exceeded her goal of $15,000. There have been nearly 90,000 hits on her website. She spoke at TEDx Youth Monterey in 2011, and has received emails from around the world. In 2012, she was honored with the Central Coast’s Outstanding Philanthropic Youth of the Year and was recognized by Soroptimist International.
She realized last fall that, since the tiny house was nearly complete, she would soon need to say goodbye. “My plan has always been to give the tiny home to a family in need. I have done extensive research to make sure the tiny house finds its perfect home. I wanted a location where a) the house could be used in perpetuity; b) a program with funding, oversight, and infrastructure that could successfully support the people living in it; and c) I felt good about the selected organization’s mission, inclusiveness, longevity, and administrative support. Alan Graham and his Community First! project meet Ronzano’s criteria and feel like a full-circle fit.
“I named the tiny house “Ruby.” My grandma always told me to remember that no matter what I did or where I went, there really is no place like home, and just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, I should just click my ruby slippers. In honor of my biggest fan, the tiny house has been christened “Ruby”. I wish my Grandma Dorothy had lived to see the project’s completion,” said Ronzano. Kendall lost her Grandma in February 2013.
Ronzano, a 2013 graduate of York School in Monterey, plays collegiate volleyball for Dartmouth as a sophomore and is pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering and double minoring in Studio Art and Human-Centered Design. She was named Most Outstanding Philanthropic Youth (Central Coast) of the year 2013, an Invited TEDx Speaker, and Soroptimist International – Regional and Monterey Bay Chapter Honoree.