It’s a Tuesday evening at the end of March in Columbus, Ohio. The weather, unusually warm for this time of year, hints at the impending spring, and Loren Brockway, senior architect at BHDP Architecture is finishing up a days’ work. He shuts down the computer, caps the pens and cleans the coffee mug; not quite a quarter past five o’clock, Loren heads for the door.
Most nights, Loren would leave BHDP’s modern office on Marconi Ave. and head home to a modest colonial in Columbus’ east suburb of Pickerington.
But tonight, Loren heads south, to an urban high school still within city limits, where he finds a crowd of 100 gathered in a large gymnasium. Tables are set up, dressed in white tablecloths and adorned with a homemade centerpiece—simple yet significant enough to signal the event as an occasion.
And an occasion it is. Tonight, high school students will present their final projects from a semester-long study of architecture, construction and engineering with the Columbus Chapter of ACE Mentor Program.
The event starts promptly at 6 p.m. A buzz of energy fills the room as students, dressed in their Sunday best, squirm with anticipation. Not so much a competition but an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of and appreciation for the built environment, the students mentally prepare to pitch their projects to mentors, families, teachers, and community leaders. This year, the project involved designing a new multi-use building in downtown Columbus. Each building housed apartments or condos on the upper levels and an office space for a select charitable organization on the ground floor.
For Loren, this moment is one of great pride. As co-lead mentor for this group of inner-city high school juniors and seniors with ACE, he has spent every Tuesday morning of the past three months preparing these students for this exact moment.
Both juniors and seniors participate, each week bringing them new lessons in the field of architecture, construction and engineering. Guest speakers—oftentimes professionals practicing their craft at local firms—make frequent appearances, offering the students true-to-life scenarios that complement the theory they learn with studio time.
“I know the impact that mentorship and teaching can have on students; both of my parents were in education and my wife is a teacher as well. I’ve seen first-hand how teaching can change lives.” says Loren, who first participated with ACE when working and living in Cleveland, Ohio.
When he moved to Columbus in 2009, Loren sought to stay connected with ACE, a national network of groups dedicated to encouraging “high school students to pursue careers in architecture, engineering and construction through mentoring.” After a rough start, the Columbus program began showing promise when it shifted classes to school time hours and hosted students from a local vocational high school. Teacher and parental involvement increased, and the program now boasts a 30-student class size.
It was at this time that Loren joined BHDP, a firm intrinsically supportive of social responsibility. Following the lead of Giancarlo Del Vita and David Lippencott, both at BHDP and who helped spearhead the Columbus chapter, Loren joined to continue what he had started in Cleveland.
“Growing up, I didn’t know what an architect was…I always loved building things, but really had no understanding of the A/E/C industry until I went to college. I can only wish that something like ACE existed while I was growing up.”
ACE truly does bolster student engagement in the industry. In addition to receiving the training offered by the ACE Mentor Program, students who decide to continue their education in a related field are eligible to apply for scholarships of at least $1000. Past ACE Mentor participants have gone on to co-op for local firms and obtain degrees across the nation, fulfilling the programs mission to inspire students to pursue careers in design and construction.
Tonya Gilbert, two-year ACE Mentor Program participant and 2016 scholarship recipient, says: “As a student in the ACE mentor program for the past two years, my view of architecture, engineering and construction has changed…I’ve seen how being in this career field, I can improve myself and benefit the community. Being in this program inspired me to continue in this course of study.”
To discover more about the ACE Mentor Program and how you can get involved, visit acementor.org.