Students get a head start in architecture, construction, engineering

Published: Mar. 10, 2015 at 9:26 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 10, 2015 at 9:28 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A national program partners local firms with schools to get the next generation ready to build America. The A.C.E. program teaches high school students the fundamentals of architecture, construction and engineering.

Scissors and construction paper are not your typical high school supply kit, but essential in A.C.E. Xuan Poree said, "Whether you like math, science or anything you can always find something." Norman Evans said, "I just put my thoughts on paper and it's like my relief." At Mcdonogh 35 these students learn building from drawing plans to scale models and mechanics and materials.

This is Norman Evans' first year. He said, "My whole life I grew up drawing, so when I got here I took a draft and design class with Mr. McGary and he showed me how to draw floor plans and ever since then I was - I like this." He's planning to pursue architecture. Evans said, "I will understand more things instead of me being lost saying I don't know what to do so it helps me a lot."

Timothy McGary said, "It's a transformative thing, it's enjoyable and I made a joke about that's why I don't have hair now, but it's enjoyable." McGary spearheads the program at #35. He said, "The growth of the kids. They come in and they get involved and a lot of them are interested in engineering and the drafting and things like that and the companionship with A.C.E. allows them to have a little avenue of what they want to do."

Professional mentors come in bi-weekly. Mary Gilmore is an architect with Billes Partners. She became a mentor through the firm. She said, "I didn't have anyone that I knew that was an architect when I went into school so when I got in it was very eye-opening." She thinks the early exposure will help these students greatly.

The students are using a real world example redesigning an old industrial building. The entire year's plans revolve around developing a new use plan for the Dixie Metal and Machinery Building in the Warehouse District. Gilmore said, "They went to the site, toured the site and now you can talk about oh remember when you looked at that window and how big it was and was the outside brick or was it stucco and they can start to think about the build environment." McGary said, "Huge. It's like light bulb moments. Working on this particular project here we walk into this battered and broken down building, they see emptiness and then all of a sudden creative skills start. What can we put here?"

The firms behind this cause see it as an investment in their future. Kenneth Burrell is the Director of Business Development for Billes Partners. He said, "There's a lot of work out here and there's a lot of good talent and competition. What has happened post Katrina national firms have come to New Orleans to try to take advantage of all the job opportunities here." They want more local trained professionals. Burrell said, "We want to grow our firms. We don't want the out of state firms. I have nothing against them, but we want them to hire our local talent not to bring talent in to take jobs away from New Orleans and our Louisiana residents."

Xaun Poree, a third year student, says the class teaches you skills useful in any career path. Poree said, "You don't have to find one specific thing you can always explore what you want and you can always go back to it. Find something you really, really want to do and have fun with it." A.C.E. lays a foundation for careers where the sky is literally the limit.

You can support A.C.E. in a couple of ways. The organization invites professionals in the industry to join them as sponsors and mentors. It is also hosting a fund raising breakfast Friday, March 13, 2015 at 8:00 a.m. with registration at 7:30 a.m. at the Marriott Convention Center featuring motivational speaker Chad Hymas. Hymas is a best-selling author, a well-known wheelchair athlete and noted as one of the top 10 most inspiring people in the world by the Wall Street Journal. Click on the link for A.C.E. for more info on the breakfast or working with the organization.

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