December 09, 2019
Blog

Clark Employees Inspire Students Across the Nation Through ACE Mentor Program

When Pranasha Shrestha, a project engineer at Clark and three-year ACE Mentor Program of America (ACE) volunteer, had learned that North High School in Torrance, California was going to shutter its ACE program due to a lack of volunteer support, she was ready to take action.

“When I found out that the North High School ACE team was going to be shut down, I volunteered to be the team leader for the school’s program,” said Shrestha. “I had to do something. I was involved in a similar program when I was in high school, so I knew how important it was for these students to keep the team alive.”

Founded in 1994, ACE is a free after-school program designed to inspire high school students to pursue careers in architecture, engineering, and construction. The program, which runs for the duration of the school year and concludes with a large-scale team project, exists in 40 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico. Today, more than 10,000 students and 4,100 volunteer mentors participate annually in ACE.

Just two years after joining a newly launched chapter of the ACE program at the STEM Academy of Boyle Heights, Shrestha embraced her role as the lone team leader for the North High School ACE program as the 2019-2020 school year began.

“The beauty of the ACE Mentor Program is that students are getting an inside look at an industry that they don’t have a lot of exposure to,” said Shrestha. “These students are discovering career paths with this program and making lasting connections with mentors that they can reach out to while in college.”

Currently, Clark Construction has 38 employees involved in the ACE Mentor Program for the 2019-2020 school year.

“The ACE Mentor Program is grateful for the support of Clark Construction, both nationally and at many local affiliates across the country,” said Diana Eidenshink, president of ACE. “Companies like Clark that fully engage with time, energy, and financial resources, are the lifeblood of our program. We look forward to continued partnership well into the future.”

Earlier this year, ACE celebrated its 25th anniversary with a banquet at the Gaylord National Resort in National Harbor, MD. The dinner included a surprise guest speech from former Secretary of State General Colin Powell. In addition, 25 students from 19 states were honored with college scholarships worth between $10,000 and $40,000.

“I wish I had been able to be involved in a program like ACE when I was a kid,” said Zoe Gottlieb, an engineer at Clark and ACE mentor in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. “I believe that early exposure is key for students to build interest in design and construction careers.

In her role as an ACE mentor, Gottlieb provides students at Washington Lee High School with an insider’s knowledge of the construction industry and helps organize guest speakers for the program.

“When I came to Clark, I wanted to make sure that students had the kind of exposure to the construction industry that I always wished for,” said Gottlieb. “My supervisor encouraged me to become an ACE mentor, which has allowed me to promote STEM opportunities to young women.”

The ACE Mentor Program was founded under the principles of inclusion and has made great strides since its founding to ensure that populations that have long been underrepresented in the design and construction industry have greater exposure to potential career opportunities. In the 2018-2019 school year, 33% of the program’s students were female and 71% of students were minority.

Ideally, each participating school’s ACE program has three team leaders – an architectural, engineering, and construction team leader. The program also typically has three mentors that assist the team leaders in preparing activities and events. On average, ACE volunteers commit approximately three hours each week into the program and meet biweekly with students during approximately 15 after-school sessions that last for about two hours.

According to ACE, more than 70% of high school seniors that are enrolled in the program enter a skilled trades program or college with an industry-related major each year. Once students graduate, ACE continues to support students through a variety of methods. Since 1994, ACE has awarded over $20 million in scholarships to students that are studying to pursue industry-related careers.

“Being part of the ACE Mentor Program has been incredibly rewarding,” said Shrestha. “Knowing that I had an impact on someone’s career path and was a positive role model as these students make important life choices is something that I’ll always carry with me.”