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ACE Mentor Program of Illinois

  • ACE Mentor Program of Illinois
  • 2010 McDaniel Ave.
  • Evanston, IL 60201
  • 847-328-7818

Program Description

The ACE Mentor Program was founded as an innovative way of attracting students, particularly minorities, women and low-income populations into careers in the architecture, construction and engineering industry. ACE's mission is to inform and excite high school students about career opportunities in architecture, construction and engineering; encourage students to pursue secondary and post-secondary education that will prepare them for careers in the integrated construction industry; and support the development of basic and technical skills through mentoring relationships. Besides the core after-school program, ACE supports participants with paid summer internships at leading industry firms, summer education initiatives, and scholarships for students who pursue post-secondary education related to the design and construction industry.

The ACE Mentor Affiliate of Chicago was established in 2000 and has a twelve-year partnership with Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Since our founding we have touched the lives of more than 1,500 high school juniors and seniors from 40 Chicago public, private and charter schools. ACE places a special focus on recruiting minority and female students; groups that are significantly under-represented in the construction and design industry, and in professional occupations overall. 93% of participants are minority and 30% are female. During the course of the free program, each team of 20 to 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. At the program conclusion, students present their projects in a public forum and many are awarded scholarships and internships.

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. Besides the core after-school program, ACE supports participants with paid summer internships at leading industry firms, summer education initiatives, and scholarships for students who pursue post-secondary education related to the design and construction industry.

While nationally, 59% of ACE students attend Title I schools, 95% of our Chicago Public School students attend Title I schools. Our students generally require more than average support and resources to overcome the barriers to success that their socio-economic circumstances create. For example, a significant number of our students come from non-English speaking households and the majority are the first ones in their family to finish high school and aspire to higher education. The ACE Chicago Mentor Program provides an extremely valuable enhancement and enrichment to Chicago students which the public schools are unable to provide.

This year ACE Chicago awarded 40 four-year college scholarships totalling over $100,000 along with 12 paid summer internships. Since 2000 it has awarded 338 scholarships totaling over $800,000 and 79 internships. Three years ago ACE Chicago with CPS launched a highly successful Summer Design-Build Workshop, an 8 week hands-on education program delivering advanced skill development for ACE students via the team design and construction of a building installation for a non-profit client.

Distinctions conferred upon ACE Chicago include the first-ever ACE Affiliate of the Year in 2006; and selection as a Chicago Public Schools 2010 Corporate Outreach Partner. The affiliate has been recognized by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and by Mayors Richard M. Daley, and Rahm Emmanuel who have served as honorary chairmen of our annual fundraiser luncheon in each of its seven years.

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: 175
  • 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