Volunteering as an ACE Mentor
If you are searching for a new and gratifying experience, give volunteering a try! I continue to be involved in various programs where I have the opportunity to ‘give a little back’ by sharing my experiences and skill sets – mainly related to the building construction industry – to local high school students. Many of these students are not sure of what they want to do with their lives at that point, and even if they do, they are likely not sure how to get from where they are now – to where they want or need to be.
We’ve all been there! We have all struggled through the process, but persevered to get to where we are. We continue to learn and grow – as everything around us continues to change. Our ability to adapt to changes defines us and makes us who we are. It’s too bad there wasn’t a course on that in school!
Looking back, it would be fair to say that we all needed a little help or push along the way. Whether it is from a parent / family member, a teacher, a coach, or any person offering support and direction, the help would have been greatly appreciated, especially if we didn’t know which way to turn. Today’s students, like us back in the day (I’m now sounding like my sons), need a lot of support, and can certainly benefit from someone offering some direction. The ACE Mentor program is one way that professionals can interact with these students and share our experiences – what we do, why we do it, how we got to where we are now!
The ACE Mentor program is a national organization who oversees the regional mentoring groups. ACE offers its mentors instructional information and meeting guidelines, as well as scholarship opportunities for the students. At the regional level, the local directors form the ‘teams’ that volunteer in the participating school districts. A typical ACE Team consists of an array of Architects, Contractors and Engineers (hence, ACE!). We volunteer a few hours of our free time to meet with the students and discuss our work and how it relates to ‘real life’ building projects. Meeting on a bi-weekly basis, we take turns offering a description of our education, experience, employment and responsibilities. Building materials suppliers and vendors are sometimes invited to share their experiences with the students – demonstrating how they interact with the contractors and professionals throughout the construction process. After just a few meetings, the students are exposed to a wide variety of educational and career path options, as well as future employment opportunities.
The initial meetings typically stress team building skills and involve small group exercises. The students then select a group project. The mentor team guides them through the process of putting their ideas onto paper and developing them into a working plan. With no boundaries imposed on their work – unlimited money, land, etc – the sky’s the limit! The mentor team defines a working schedule based on the number of weeks & months available. The students complete their work using any resources available and ultimately present their project, formally, to members of the ACE Mentor program, family members, school administrators, teachers, fellow students and friends.
For me, the most important aspect of the program is to create the design, and keep the experience fun for the students. Understanding that they have already endured a long day in school, we offer after school snacks – pizza or hoagies and soda seem to be the favorites!
It’s now up to you! Give volunteering a try…it benefits all of us!
The images are samples of student work from the program, and they are very impressive!