"Happiness is like a butterfly;the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder."-Thoreau

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

ACE Mentor Program

Student model of West Charlotte High School "Swann Station"

Students from West Charlotte explain their project to members of the design and construction industry prior to their formal presentation.

Brian Bennett, a LandDesign mentor, takes a moment to have his photo take with one of the students from Olympic High School.

The West Charlotte drum line perform prior to the awards banquet. Needless to say it was LOUD.

This semester, I have had the opportunity to volunteer every two weeks at a local Charlotte high school as part of the ACE Mentor Program. I had been looking for an opportunity to mentor high school students about the profession of Landscape Architecture and I heard about the ACE Mentor Program last October at a landscape architecture conference in San Francisco. The Ace Mentor Program was established in 1994 as a way of educating high school students about the construction and design professions. This includes landscape architecture, civil engineering, community planning, architecture, electrical engineering, and so on. After talking to several people at my office, I found that most of my colleagues more or less stumbled into our profession rather than starting off as landscape architects or civil engineers our freshman year of college. I, for example, learned about landscape architecture at the end of my sophomore year at Jacksonville State University after participating in a career aptitude test. It was only at the beginning of my junior year did I begin to take classes at Auburn for landscape architecture.

The ACE Mentor Program has allowed myself and 13 of my colleagues to mentor students from West Charlotte and Olympic High Schools. A total of 12 students participated this year and most had an interest in the design or construction field, although none said they were considering landscape architecture. Throughout the year, we took the students on several field trips to constructions sites, the UNCC College of Architecture, visits to sustainable buildings, and other parts of Charlotte most have never visited. After the Christmas break, the students were assigned a project of their own. They were directed to design a light rail station for their high school campus with the exception they would present the project at the end of the year.

The students worked very hard this semester and presented their project last Thursday evening to approximately 150 local members of the design and construction industry. A total of 9 students from West Charlotte did a PowerPoint presentation which showcased their project. At the conclusion of the presentation, three of the students who were seniors received scholarships in the amounts of $1,000 and $2,500. All three students had their families with them and it was great seeing their hard work from the school year pay off. Our company offered a summer internship to one of the students who was interested in civil engineering. Even though he is a junior in high school, we wanted to give him a chance to explore this profession to see if he enjoys it before he heads off to college.

All 14 mentors from LandDesign enjoyed the ACE Mentor Program this school year. Next year, we have been informed we will be heading up a new high school as the program expands into the school system. Below are some photos from the awards banquet last Thursday. If you know someone in the design or construction industry, I would ask you to encourage them to seek out a local ACE Mentor Program and get involved.

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