The ACE Mentor Program (Architecture, Construction, and Engineering) is a mentorship program for students interested in careers in architecture, construction, and engineering, and provides students with early career exposure as well as scholarship opportunities. The program is a nationwide, bi-weekly after-school activity for high school students led mostly by volunteer teachers and industry professionals. Classes are regularly supplemented with guest speakers and site visits, providing students with real exposure to the field.
At a time when secondary to postsecondary transitions are in the spotlight, the ACE Mentor Program offers an impressive model of experiential learning in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) related fields. A recent article, Mentor Program Introduces Students to STEM-Related Fields, examines the ACE Mentor Program of Greater Washington Inc., and describes the program and its impact on high school students across the D.C. metropolitan area. Program highlights included the students’ visits to construction sites, hearing about the experiences of a recent STEM graduate, and a discussion of building design.
According to teachers and ACE alumni, the program has been successful in recruiting students to pursue careers in architecture, construction, and engineering. A 2009 ACE Mentor Program survey of recent alumni (from 2002-2009) suggests that most alumni were influenced to pursue an ACE career path as a result of participating in the mentorship program. Additionally, there is evidence the program encouraged students to perform better academically. While the national high school graduation rate is about 73 percent, ninety-seven percent of ACE students graduated from high school. Additionally, while 68 percent of all U.S. high school students enroll in college, ninety-four percent of ACE students reportedly enrolled in college.
In the previously mentioned article, White House policy analyst Kumar Garg states, “Exposing students to different types of careers and how to get there has a powerful impact on their motivation in school and getting good grades, whether their interest is in science and technology, and what they do to get there.” The ACE Mentor Program is a powerful tool for students. Alumni bode well with a high graduation rate, high college enrollment, and student interest in the ACE field. ACE programs such as this may provide students with exposure and knowledge in areas they may not have previously considered, increasing interest in STEM fields and easing the secondary to postsecondary transition for students.