‘ACES’ Program Puts LA Youth from Disadvantaged Communities on Path to College, Careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math

Los Angeles high school students enrolled in the Architecture, Construction and Engineering Students (ACES) Pathway Program get a head start on college and careers. (PRNewsFoto/Emerald Cities Collaborative)

‘ACES’ Program Puts LA Youth from Disadvantaged Communities on Path to College, Careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math

[dropcap]E[/dropcap]merald Cities Collaborative’s (ECC) commitment to building a sustainable and just economy for the next generation of young people from disadvantaged communities has taken unique form in the Architecture, Construction and Engineering Students (ACES) Pathway Program in Los Angeles, where the Washington, D.C-based nonprofit has a local office.

The ACES Pathway Program is giving more than 170 LA-area high schoolers from diverse backgrounds the chance to explore “STEAM” (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) careers by earning community college credit for related courses and gaining hands-on work experience alongside industry professionals during paid summer internships. The college credits are transferrable to campuses within the California State University and University of California systems, giving the students a head start towards a degree. To learn more about ECC’s work to expand economic opportunities for residents of disadvantaged communities in and around LA, please visit http://emeraldcities.org/cities/losangeles.

For all those reasons, “ACES is a win-win-win” for young people who might not otherwise find fulfilling, family-supporting careers in the STEAM disciplines – or even attend college at all – says Emerald Cities Los Angeles Program Director Veronica Soto, who oversees ECC’s involvement in the program.

ACES partners with local schools, including Alhambra High School, Legacy STEAM High School, Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools, San Gabrielino High School, Mark Keppel High School, SIATech Charter, YouthBuild-Boyle Heights and 5 Keys Charter.

Participating campuses within the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) – where ACES students take courses in engineering, surveying, building information modeling (BIM), robotics, geographical information system (GIS) mapping and design by computer – include East Los Angeles College, Los Angeles City College and Los Angeles Trade Technical College.

In addition to financial and staff support from Emerald Cities Los Angeles, ACES receives staff support from the LACCD’s $6.2 billion Build Program – a community economic development program emphasizing local business and local hire participation – and in-kind support in the form of classroom space at the Boyle Heights Technology YouthSource Center, part of a citywide program offering job skills training, tutoring, college preparation and other services.

No Barriers
ACES creates academic pathways regardless of participants’ GPAs and socio-economic challenges by employing a collaborative, proactive case management approach that engages high school principals and teachers, community college faculty and administrators, charter school executive directors and counselors at Boyle Heights Youth Technology Center.

Besides the introductory STEAM-related college courses, field trips to construction sites and universities and work-related seminars prepare ACES students for summer internships with industry partners.

To ensure a pathway to union apprenticeship upon high school graduation, students also are enrolled in apprenticeship preparation training conducted by YouthBuild-Boyle Heights, which uses the Multi-Craft Core Curriculum (MC3) created by the National Building and Construction Trades Council.

Diversity, Mentoring, Doing it All
“The ACES Program aims to increase the diversity of students pursuing academic pathways in the design and construction disciplines and to develop mentoring between industry professionals and students,” Soto observes. “Seminars focusing on topics such as work-readiness and financial literacy gear up ACES students for their summer internship experiences,” she added.

ACES participants such as STEAM Legacy High School senior and scholar-athlete Ricardo Marquina do it all, juggling a full high school class schedule plus at least one college course, as well as extracurricular activities. Active in football, volleyball and the yearbook staff, Marquina is also a member of the National Honor Society with plans to major in engineering.

During his paid internship last summer at the LACCD Build Program, Marquina worked on BIM files alongside an office architect, among other tasks. “Through ACES, I learned to use auto-cad, sketch-up and other software,” he said. “The college classes benefited me because engineers are using these software programs.”

He added, “Also, I’ve got some experience working in a project office that will help me in the future. The challenging part for me was working in the office, because I wasn’t used to working in an environment where everyone is quiet doing their work.”

A Transformative Program
STEAM Legacy High School Principal Carla Barrera-Ortiz said ACES “has transformed our school’s culture and academic program by giving our students direct access to college-level coursework, workforce development and hands-on training through paid internship opportunities.

“Because of the ACES program,” she continued, “student enrollment at Legacy STEAM H.S. has increased by over 45 percent since we opened in 2012. ACES has helped our school create a direct pipeline into the architecture, construction and engineering career pathways within a community that has historically been under-represented in the STEM fields.”

Delivering on the Promise
Following its recent accreditation review, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges “recognized and celebrated ACES as a dynamic program that delivers its promise to increase college and career readiness for our STEAM students,” Barrera-Ortiz added. “This partnership is helping STEAM High School realize its vision and mission, as promised to our students and their families.”

Soto said that upon securing the necessary funding, ACES will be expanded to other Los Angeles regions, specifically South Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.

Emerald Cities Collaborative (www.emeraldcities.org) is a national nonprofit network of organizations working together to advance a sustainable environment while creating economic opportunities for all. ECC is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and works in a number of “Emerald Cities” nationwide with local and national partners that bring resources and expertise from the community, labor, business and government sectors. 

Source: /PRNewswire-HISPANIC PR WIRE/