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Jyae McWilson: Former ACE Scholar Now Building Career


There's an old saying about matches made in heaven. While that may be true, Cindy Leitson and Jyae McWilson are proving that matches can also be made at bowling alleys.

“It started with a smile at an ACE Mentor Program Cleveland bowling event,” said Cindy, who has been Jyae’s mentor since February 2022. “We met and just kept talking,” she added, noting that before she knew it, their mentoring relationship had begun. “I wasn’t expecting it,” Cindy added, “I really wasn’t expecting her to have such an impact on me.” Their meeting was equally surprising for Jyae, who admits she has a problem networking.

Jyae has been connected to ACE Mentor Cleveland for a mere two years, but she has maximized her time with the organization. A graduate of the John Hay School of Architecture and Design and Kent State University College of Architecture and Environmental Design, she came into the program curious about architecture. “I wanted an in-depth understanding of what the profession was,” Jyae noted. “I knew a minimal amount about architecture at the time. My architectural studies class taught me about abstract design, but ACE introduced me to practical side of architecture that's prominent in the actual day-to-day of the profession.”


Since connecting with Cindy, who professionally serves as a VP of Capital, Construction, and Facilities at Cuyahoga Community College, in a career mentoring relationship (versus a student/mentor relationship), Jyae has been able to go to Cindy for career advice. “She takes a lot of time out with me,” Jyae said. The two also did mock interviews, with Cindy posing questions that potential employers might ask. “She’s helped me with what to say and what not to say in preparation for the real interviews, and she also went through my resume looking for strengths and opportunities for improvement.” Cindy said Jyae had great answers – “she just needed a good beginning and a good end and tips on selling her skills and attributes.”


After completing a job search in her field of study and applying to a number of local firms, Jyae landed a full-time job at the architectural firm Bialosky in Cleveland, where she’s now working on a number of historic projects, as well as the Park Synagogue (Beachwood) renovation.


When Jyae first became involved with the ACE Mentoring Program, she spent her time focused on learning the fundamentals of the A/C/E fields and various career pathways. Now, she and Cindy get together every few weeks to talk about work and more specifically, what might come next for Jyae’s career.

“A master’s degree is highly encouraged, so I am looking at going back to school next fall,” Jyae said. She noted that she is looking at Kent and Ohio State University, which would keep her local and close to family. However, she hasn’t ruled out Columbia University and Pratt, both in New York City.
“Reflecting on her introduction to ACE, Jyae said the organization “introduced me to the practical side of architecture that's prominent in the actual day-to-day of the profession. What interests about the program now is how they are still involved in the lives of Mentees even after high school. They encourage us to participate in STEM events and still provide scholarship applications and other opportunities in college.” Thanks to her involvement with ACE, Jyae got hands-on experience in her desired field.

Career Goal:


To be a licensed Architect and or Urban Planner


Favorite class in school:


My favorite class in high school was architectural studies. This is the class where I first learned the fundamentals of architecture, such as history and methodology of the practice. I enjoyed this class greatly because I was able to design both digitally and physically.


What teacher or role model made an impact in your life?


I have multiple teachers and mentors who have made impacts on life. Most recently, Cynthia Leitson has had a prominent impact on my life. Cynthia has helped me make life-changing decisions such as deciding on going to graduate school. She even helped me with the financial aspect by sharing scholarship opportunities and grant applications. Not only has she helped with the educational life, but she has also helped me in my professional career by putting my name out to architectural firms and designers she knows professionally. I've learned so much from her and I'm excited that I can continue learning more from her.

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