National mentorship program for aspiring architects, engineers coming to Boise

The ACE Mentor Program —  a national organization that helps high schoolers break into architecture, construction and engineering — is coming to the Treasure Valley in January.

The first in Idaho, the ACE affiliate program will pair students with industry professionals to get hands-on experience and insight into the trades. With around 75 affiliate programs nationwide, ACE serves over 10,000 students and 4,000 mentors annually.

Students from Boise, Meridian, Nampa, Caldwell and beyond are invited to participate, according to founding member Mitchell Stark.

ACE Idaho is geared to serve around 30 students this year, with one mentor for every three to five students. If you’re interested in mentoring, or know a student who could benefit, contact [email protected].

The goal is to invest early in the future workforce and help students carve out their own path with the knowledge they need, said Stark.

“I feel that the ACE program is very worthwhile…a lot of students don’t have any idea of what architecture construction or engineering is about,” Stark said. “It’s very exciting.”

Stark mentored students through ACE’s Bay Area affiliate for more than a decade before his 2019 retirement. He watched students gain interest in the industries, pursue those careers after high school, and eventually return as professional architects, engineers and builders to become ACE mentors themselves, he said.

Students from across the country constructed small-scale models at ACE National Summer Camp. Photo provided by ACE’s West/Midwest Sr. Regional Director Paulette Dallas.
ACE students met with industry professionals for hands-on experience at ‘TRADES DAY’. Photo provided by ACE’s West/Midwest Sr. Regional Director Paulette Dallas.

When he moved to Idaho, he wanted to bring that success with him. So, he reached out to ACE regional director Paulette Dallas to start a new chapter. The two pulled together a board of directors that includes at least seven local architects, engineers and construction professionals.

Now, they’re searching for mentors and students in the greater Boise area, hoping to kickstart the program in January.

“My favorite thing about ACE is it’s a mentoring organization for any high school student,” said Dallas.

Scholarship, mentors and support are available both to students planning for college and those who want to go into the trades immediately after high school, Dallas said.

Students will meet weekly with each other and a group of mentors for the 14-week program in 2023.

They’ll learn the science behind the trades, and receive in-depth knowledge of the different types of architecture and engineering. They’ll also budget and design their own hypothetical projects, which students will present as a team at the end of the program.

Field trips to local businesses are also part of the curriculum, Dallas and Stark said, to give students a first-hand look at the trades and help them build connections in the community.

The program also focuses on life skills, said Dallas. Teaching students how to build resumes, work on a team and succeed in job interviews is part of the ACE mission. Students can also get paid high school internships and scholarships.

Community members can participate by volunteering as mentors, signing up as guest speakers, offering internships or site visits to students, or joining the board of directors.

Sadie Dittenber

Sadie Dittenber

Reporter Sadie Dittenber focuses on K-12 policy and politics. She is a College of Idaho graduate, born and raised in the Treasure Valley. You can follow Sadie on Twitter @sadiedittenber and send her news tips at [email protected].

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