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ACE Family Day Exposes Students and Parents to Opportunities

Updated: Dec 4, 2023


How do you convey to high school students and their families that there are numerous, well-paying opportunities within the architecture, construction, and engineering industries? One word: exposure. And, in essence, that’s what ACE Family Day provides.


ACE Family Day, an event hosted by The ACE Cleveland Mentor Program, is a gathering of all ACE participants and their families to be able to connect with local colleges and learn about career opportunities in the ACE industry.


The ACE Cleveland Mentor Program is a free after-school mentorship program designed to introduce high school students to careers in architecture, construction and engineering and has supported approximately $1.4 million in scholarships to over 180 students.


Held earlier this month, at Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center, this year’s ACE Family Day had a special focus on construction trade careers. The day consisted of sessions where students got a chance to get acquainted with each other, learn about the design project they will work on this school year as well as the design project process including responding to a Request for Proposals (RFP), career pathway resources, access to college partners, and the various trades through hands-on exhibits.


Over 125 students, several parents, numerous mentors and partners attended.

“I think it’s very informative,” said Zeita Rutledge, of the ACE Family Day. Her daughter Akaylah Hicks is a freshman at John Hay School of Architecture and Design and first year participant in the ACE Cleveland Mentor program. Hicks is interested in engineering.
“There’s a lot of jobs, good jobs, but you don’t always know how to get your foot in the door,” said Rutledge. “I think you hear engineering but don’t know how many levels are involved. This is eye-opening.”

Not only were Rutledge and her daughter’s eyes open to the career options, they also learned about salaries as Jacinda Walker of designExplorr exposed them to the type of money design creatives earn in Cleveland and other markets. designExplorr is an organization with a goal to create opportunities that allow underrepresented youth to participate in design activities.


At the same time, The Finishing Trades Institute of The Ohio Region allowed attendees to experience their Artificial Intelligence (AI) Lift. The lift virtually takes you 40 feet in the air and gives the sensation of going up and down. The Finishing Trades Institutes of The Ohio Region uses it to certify people in the machinery.


Matt Kraus, vice president of sales at The Chas. E. Phipps Company, believed it was important for his organization to participate in ACE Family Day because they typically utilize colleges and universities to identify talent.

“Anytime we can give back to the community and know we can make an impact with children, that’s important to us,” said Kraus. “Construction has given us an opportunity to make a good living. There’s more jobs in construction than working for a contractor.”

The Chas. E. Phipps Company’s exhibit showed participants ways in which equipment has evolved to be battery powered. They had a saw and dump buggy on display.


Elaine McMichael, Talent Acquisition Sourcing Specialist at Dominion, said they have an aging workforce and are looking to backfill those jobs. “These are great jobs coming out of high school with a diploma or G.E.D. But, lots of times, people don’t know,” she said.


Being at the ACE Family Day excited McMichael. “It’s never too early to start these conversations.”


Matt Danis, vice president of Shook Construction Company and ACE Cleveland Mentoring Program board chair, during closing remarks advised ACE participants to utilize the resources and to “play the ACE card.”

“We want to see you succeed and help you as much as we can,” said Danis.

Eric Gordon, CEO of Cleveland Metropolitan School District, told students ACE fits what he wants for them. “I want you to have experiences, get support, learn what you are passionate about, and get paid well for your passion. That’s what ACE let me do for you.”

Johnathan Bailey, a freshman at Shaker Heights High School who is interested in architecture and design engineering, said he attended ACE Family Day to explore other options.

“I learned a lot,” he said. “Before today, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I didn’t know so many options were available. I only knew about building houses.”

After spending time at ACE Day, Bailey is sure he wants to go into architecture.

A friend introduced Janelle Steiner, a 10th grade student at Cleveland Heights High School, to The ACE Cleveland Mentor Program. This is her first year in the program.

“I like talking about engineering and my future,” she said. “I probably want to be an engineer.”

Steiner found ACE Family Day to be fun. “It was good to see all the opportunities in engineering and what you can do after high school.”


She particularly enjoyed the forklift with the virtual reality glasses. “It was cool to see how technology is being used [in the industry].”


Shaker Heights High School ACE advisor Nevin Jenkins said both his students and the teacher advisors made many wonderful connections that will go beyond ACE. “There is a lot of value for the teachers too,” he said.


Cindy Leitson, ACE Cleveland Career Pathways Committee Chair, thought the ACE Family drew a good turnout and she liked having more equipment and hands-on exhibits.

“It has gotten bigger,” she said. “We’re getting students exposed to all the occupations.”




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