The ASLA Annual Meeting has brought thousands of landscape architects to Phoenix this weekend. Only a dozen or so showed up for a session on the ACE Mentor Program yesterday, but it was quite a lively event nonetheless. ACE is a program that works with professional designers, engineers, and construction workers to reach out to high school students interested in those fields. The grassroots program varies a little from city to city, but the basic idea is to have the students select a project and then work through the entire design process. Sometimes, they even get to build what they design.
Joseph M. Cole went through the program ten years ago, at the suggestion of his drafting teacher. ACE helped him realize that being an architect was an obtainable goal, he told the audience. Today he works for Thomas, Miller & Partners and he is a mentor himself. “It’s an awesome opportunity to network with other mentors,” he says.
Nationwide, the program engages about 8,000 students and 5,000 mentors per year. Two-thirds of those students are minorities and a third are young women. One group they haven’t been reaching so well, however, is landscape architects.
Robert J. Golde, ASLA, a landscape architect at Towers|Golde, thinks that’s a shame. He told the audience being a mentor has helped him to enlighten other professionals about the skills he has as a landscape architect. And it is inspiring as well: “It really gives you a fresh look on things,” he says, “which is always good as a designer.”
The organization has a booth at the ASLA Expo. If you are here in Phoenix, and you are interested in getting involved, you can visit them today or tomorrow. Or you can check out their website.