In an upcoming issue of Black Enterprise, Iâ€™ll be writing about STEM in education. However, this program in Los Angeles is too exciting to hold onto until then.
Iâ€™m talking about the Architecture, Construction, and Engineering Students (ACES) Pathway Program, which is providing diverse LA-area high schoolers the chance to explore high-paying, family-supporting careers in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. This isn’t just education; this is workforce development.
The program and its emphasis on STEM careers or STEAM sounds great. But, the downside is itâ€™s only serving around 170 students. ACES should be expanded and offered in every LA high school that wants it.
What makes the program so compelling?
- It gives students the opportunity to earn community college credit.
- The college credits they earn are transferable to campuses within the California State and University of California systems.
- Students go on field trips to construction sites and universities.
- Seminars prepare students for summer internships.
- Students get hands-on work experience alongside industry professionals during paid summer internships.
- Students are enrolled in apprenticeship preparation training to ensure a pathway to union apprenticeship.
Another great feature? Instead of using GPAs and income as a barrierâ€”which is typicalâ€”ACES creates academic pathways regardless of participantsâ€™ grade point averages, test scores, and socio-economic status. The program uses a collaborative, proactive case management approach that engages high school principals, teachers, community college faculty, and more.
ACES now partners with the following local schools: Alhambra High School, STEAM Legacy High School, Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools, San Gabrielino High School, Mark Keppel High School, SIATech Charter, YouthBuild-Boyle Heights, and Five Keys Charter School.
STEAM Legacy High School’s principal, Carla Barrera-Ortiz, said in a statement, “ACES has transformed our schoolâ€™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, student enrollment at Legacy STEAM H.S. has increased by over 45% 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 underrepresented in the STEM fields,” she continued.
ACES is part of the Emerald Cities Collaborative, a national nonprofit network of organizations working together to advance a sustainable environment while creating economic opportunities for all. For more information, visit its website.