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ACE Mentor Program Chicago

  • ACE Mentor Program Chicago
  • 2010 McDaniel Ave.
  • Evanston, IL 60201
  • 773-301-9645
  • 2000

Program Description

The core of ACE Chicago is its after school program which runs from late October through March of each school year. During the course of the free program, each team of 20 - 25 students and their mentor leaders meets after school for 17 weekly sessions to work toward development of a hypothetical project from concept to delivery. Our mentors, all volunteers, are drawn from a pool of the leading Chicago design and construction firms who are working on some of the world's most exciting and innovative projects. When meeting ACE's learning objectives, mentors improvise and add/substitute creative elements that play to their strengths and knowledge and which incorporate the industry's current critical topics such as LEED Certification and other environmental innovations and concerns. As one ACE student described the experience, "I was coming downtown weekly and working with real, practicing architects, engineers, and construction managers. I was immediately struck on the first day by the vigor of the program. It was geared towards helping students better understand what is really involved in entering the profession. Working with people who had achieved this goal made my interest in architecture and pursuing a career in the field much more concrete and real."

ACE mentors follow a developed curriculum and a project-based learning strategy and draw upon a tested body of hands-on activities that reflect many aspects of designing and constructing a building. The program builds skills that can be carried over to school subjects such as math, physics, engineering, and graphic design. As the students learn about industry disciplines and are immersed in the design process, they are engaged in imaginative thinking and continuously challenged to solve complex problems. Participants' soft skills are additionally refined through collaborative teamwork, actively listening to and motivating each other, and defending their design decisions. At the conclusion of the program, the students present their project in a public forum. "Deliverables" typically required for a final project include sophisticated computer generated project simulations, architectural drawings with sections and/or a model, site plans, landscape design drawings, structural design plans, finish boards, mechanical and electrical schematics, estimated construction costs, and a construction schedule.

Success Stories

Saul Moreno, age 23, participated in ACE for both his Junior and Senior years at Lane Tech High School. Through ACE he was awarded an internship at the engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti. He attended Illinois Institute of Technology and majored in architecture and when he graduated in 2011 he was offered a position at Thornton Tomasetti where he is currently working on several projects, including the Kingdom Tower and Rush Hospital. He is also now serving as an ACE mentor himself. He has said, "ACE opened up my world. In high school, it was exciting to have the opportunity to meet and work with people in the field. I would look forward to the end of the day when I would get on the train and head to the office where I would meet with my peers and mentors. Had it not been for ACE I would have never thought of college as an option."

Services Provided

  • Career exploration and counseling/internships
  • College admissions guidance and counseling
  • College fairs/campus visits
  • Leadership development
  • Mentoring
  • Scholarships and last-dollar grants
  • Science, tech, engineering, & math (STEM)


Race & Ethnicity

  • White: 8%
  • Asian or Pacific Islander: 4%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 36%
  • Other: 5%
  • African American: 40%

Education Level and
Number of Students

  • High School: 2000
  • Middle School: 0
  • Elementary School: 0
  • Post-secondary: 0
  • Non-traditional: 0


  • Between 25% and 50%

Colleges Attended
by Alumni

  • Illinois Institute of Technology
  • Kent State University at Kent
  • Miami University-Oxford
  • Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus
  • Purdue University-Main Campus
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • University of Michigan-Dearborn
  • University of Missouri-Columbia