STEM in America-The ACE Mentor Program

(This post is an updated version of one posted originally in 2012.

In my last post we discussed the importance of STEM education to our country and I am spending more time in this post to give further information to you about one STEM program I know personally, the ACE Mentor Program. ACE Mentor got its start in the following way:

ACE is a not-for-profit organization, formed under Section 501(c)3 of the District of Columbia in 2002. Prior to that date (1994), ACE’s leadership was directed by the ACE Mentor Program of New York City, the founding affiliate.

After several years of experimenting with various mentoring models, ACE was formed in 1994 when seventeen firms banded together into 3 teams, each organized like a typical design and construction team, and “adopted” about 90 students from local high schools. Volunteers from each of the firms, serving as mentors, worked directly with the students to introduce them to the broad range of people and projects within the construction industry.

Students were introduced to the various design professions and the role that each performs in planning, designing and constructing a project. Students also gained first hand insight into the design industry by touring project offices and visiting active construction sites.


And students worked closely with their mentors to solve challenging “real world” projects.

In the spring of 1995, ACE New York held its first fundraising event to establish a scholarship program for ACE graduates. Scholarships continue to be awarded on an annual basis to ACE graduates who go on to college to study for a career in the design and construction industry.

The ACE Mentor Program has a presence in more than two hundred cities in America — from New York to Los Angeles, Seattle to Miami, Chicago to Dallas, even Honolulu — and is still growing. Thanks to the dedication of ACE’s mentors and staff, and the support of local schools, more than 60,000 students, many who are economically challenged, have had an opportunity to explore the building design and construction industry. (from the ACE Mentor website)

Nashville, TN started their own ACE affiliate in 2002 with 40 students from 3 schools. The program has continued to grow and the limiting factor is typically the number of mentors available to work with students. There is interest and demand for expansion from many local and regional schools who see the value in this program.

My knowledge of ACE started shortly after this beginning in Nashville while I worked at Smith Seckman Reid, a local engineering design firm with deep roots in healthcare facility design across the country and in many parts of the world. While I was there I had some involvement personally and also knew several staff members who worked directly in the program as mentors and fundraisers.

This all became personal when my youngest son entered the ACE program while a junior at Independence High School in Williamson County, TN. He participated in the program for two years as part of his CAD class and it led to his decision to attend Auburn University in Auburn, AL to pursue a degree in Building Science. While in the ACE program the participants learned about cutting edge issues such as Building Information Modeling (BIM).

This journey continues today as my son graduated from Auburn last spring and know he works for Turner Construction in Huntsville, AL.  He has one other classmate from Independence who is also a graduate of Auburn and 3 other good friends who are 5th year architecture students at the University of Tennessee. All of these young men can trace their education and career choice to their participation in ACE Mentor here in Nashville.

STEM programs do work and I’ll post again soon about the GK-12 program that I work with here in Middle Tennessee. This program is more focused on the biological sciences, but it still is a core STEM initiative.

What programs do you see that support STEM? What can your community do to encourage more young men and women to choose science, technology, engineering or mathematics based careers?