Explore Your Interests
Sometimes, there’s no better way to learn than to get your feet wet.
The ACE Mentor Program of America gives high school students in over 200 cities across the country a chance to explore the architecture, construction, and engineering (“ACE”) industries first-hand through after-school clubs. ACE members work side-by-side with professional mentors from ACE-related industries in the surrounding community to complete every phase of a mock design and construction project, from start to finish. Along the way, students learn the ins and outs of working a project, gain valuable skills like leadership and public speaking, and have the opportunity to earn college scholarships.
ACE, an all-volunteer organization supported completely through donations from its affiliates and industry partners, hosts over 8,000 high school students each year across the U.S. Typically, clubs have about 15-20 student members and three to five professional mentors. The mentors come from different ACE industry backgrounds like engineering, drafting, or architecture.
John Strock is Executive Director of the ACE Mentor Program of America. He said that the clubs are intended to introduce students to a wide range of industry careers, so that any student, regardless of their unique interests or talents, can find a way to participate and learn.
“The goal is to show students every facet of the industry so that, whatever skill set that they have they can be a part of this industry,” Strock said.
ACE clubs meet at local high schools, and frequently take field trips to actual construction sites. At the beginning of a club year, each chapter selects a project that it will see through from beginning to end, just shy of the actual building process. The students perform each task as though the project were reality.
“They learn about the design process, they learn how to work with owners, they do the drawings themselves, so it gets really involved,” Strock said. “They do the design, scheduling, estimating, project management, working with trades, working with subcontractors, it’s just everything, it’s all-encompassing.”
At the end of the year, club chapters present their final projects in front of actual industry professionals. Some projects become eligible to attend the ACE national design competition in Washington, D.C., where the judges represent some of the most prominent ACE industry firms in the nation.
The ACE Mentor Program also offers a summer program where students attend camps at one of a number of ACE-affiliated universities and participate in complete design-and-build construction projects. Last year, for example, students stayed at Cal State University in Long Beach, California, where they designed and built dog houses for animals sponsored by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
Another benefit for ACE members is potential scholarship opportunities. Since the program was founded in 1994, ACE has provided over $12 million in college scholarships. The scholarships, Strock said, aren’t based on academics; instead, ACE looks for students who show promise and are highly motivated to pursue ACE-related fields in college and in their future careers. The goal is not just to recruit students to the industry, but to impart to them the skills and resources to succeed.
“What we want to do is show high school students the opportunities within these industries,” Strock said. “They learn things that they didn’t know they were capable of doing. ? I think it’s important to sort of focus on just anyone in the past who has not had that opportunity, and we can show them that anyone can do this. Whatever skill set you have, whatever background you have, there’s an opportunity for you in these industries.”
To learn more about the ACE program, or to see if your own community is one of the 200 across the country that supports an ACE club chapter, you can visit the ACE website by clicking here.