Over the past 5 years the ACE Mentor Program (ACE) and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) have collaborated to stimulate aspiring design and construction industry professionals to pursue careers in the industry and to go green.
ACE (www.acementor.org) is a national after-school program taught by volunteer architects, engineers, and construction professionals. Each year approximately 8,000 high school students participate in the 15-session program, lasting about 40 hours, and 2,500 mentors stimulate them to pursue careers in the industry by engaging them in hands-on activities, many of which involve sustainability. Two-thirds of the ACE alumni enter college with declared majors in architecture, engineering, and construction management.
Five years ago USGBC approached ACE about ways to attract some of the ACE alumni to deepen their exposure to sustainability by attending the Greenbuild conference. USGBC generously provided all-expenses-paid scholarships to the conference for ACE alumni. Competition for the scholarship slots has been intense. Scholarship winners are required to present their experiences to current high school students in the ACE program after the conference.
In 2013 seven ACE alumni received USGBC scholarships. Greenbuild proved beneficial for the seven, each of whom has demonstrated a keen interest in careers in the building industry. ACE, which continues to guide its alumni upon completion of its program, provided resources for the scholarship recipients attending the conference.
Scholarship recipient Carme Azor, an architecture major at the City College of New York, explained the importance of applying for Greenbuild, as a graduate of the ACE program. “I applied to Greenbuild because I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to further broaden my knowledge and exposure to the architectural field. I saw it as a chance for me to meet people who are engaged in related fields.”
As part of the conference, ACE graduates had the opportunity to hear Rick Fedrezzi, USGBC President, CEO and Founding Chair, who inspired members of the audience as his words echoed throughout the night. He encouraged every individual to spread the message of sustainability- to take back the lessons learned at this conference and to share our knowledge with others. His words certainly proved beneficial. Says scholarship recipient Nelson Jean Louis, a Howard University junior in architecture, "The Greenbuild experience was an enlightening, refreshing and energetic trip for a young aspiring architect. The lessons learned, the networking connections, and experienced gained as an emerging professional was the ideal gateway for a student of interested in the architecture. The experience there has prepared me to go about and attack this competitive and brilliant career forth coming."
As a Greenbuild scholarship recipient, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be inspired by Hillary, Rick, and other world leaders who attended the week long gathering of 30,000 attendees and engaged in an open forum of devout resolution. My fellow ACE graduates were equally as stirred. Says scholarship recipient Rosalina Iniguez, a sophomore architecture major at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, “I loved getting to know many more people who have similar career goals. It was also wonderful to be surrounded by people wiser than myself who could share their knowledge with me.”
Greenbuild Nation, the gathering of the sustainable cause community, began in 2002 and has grown exponentially since. At Greenbuild, the ACE alumni and other scholarship recipients attended a series of seminars, exhibits, and encompassing green building tours, workshops, and summits, which culminated in a keynote celebration. The scholarship recipients left the conference with valuable tools, an expansion of their professional network, knowledge of modern market trends, and a sense of involvement in a broader community.
Most importantly, Greenbuild provided ACE graduates with a souvenir of inspiration that we can each take back to our communities to fuel each of us on the path of sustainability that we no longer have a choice to partake in -- we must become active participants! Scholarship recipient Fatuma Ali, a second-year architecture major at Western Washington University, explains the sense of responsibility we all gained. “I have become more aware of the environment, and I hope to educate other youth by demonstrating what green means and ways to take care the environment.”
Greenbuild was an extraordinarily unique event. What was immediately recognizable was the variety of attendees’ backgrounds. We met architects, engineers, a variety of designers, manufacturers, legislators, design enthusiasts, environmentalists, marketing professionals, and journalists. We recognized these individuals all shared one goal- to engage in an exchange of ideas for our planet’s future and to broadcast the ideas to as many ears that their voices could fall upon. Consequently, we felt at home at Greenbuild. Explains Carme, “We all shared a common passion and that was to create a better, greener planet through our work, whichever field it fell under.”
As emerging professionals and current students, our group of seven ACE alumni were pleased to meet a variety of ardent individuals: those who were just embarking on their journey - students - and those professionals who had already created a legacy of years of impact in the green building community. We were truly grateful to have been part of such a spark of passion.
/ Farah Naz Ahmad was born in New York City and holds a Bachelor of Architecture degree from The City College of New York. She is a LEED Accredited Professional in Building Design + Construction. Her career goal is to make an impact on the field of sustainability in design and construction. Her past roles as President of CCNY's American Institute of Architecture Students and as a team leader for the US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon have increased her passion for eco-friendly design.