ACE Mentor of Cleveland Wraps Up 13th Year With Big Wins

By Rhonda Crowder

The ACE Mentor Program of Cleveland completed its 13th year with its annual Spring Celebration on May 27th recognizing the year’s achievements and successes. The Spring Celebration is the organization’s signature annual event, honoring student program participants and the mentors who generously give their time and leadership to help students prepare for careers in design and construction.

“This year’s program participants overcame unprecedented adversity without missing a beat,” said Mark Panzica, ACE Mentor Program of Cleveland Board Chair. “The students adjusted to virtual programming with ease, and that’s exactly the kind of adaptability that will help them thrive in these industries.”

Cleveland State University (CSU) President Harlan Sands and Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) CEO Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells provided remarks. Both community leaders have long been ACE Cleveland partners.

“It’s great to see the program continue and provide that exposure to architecture, construction and engineering careers,” said Dreyfuss-Wells. She also thanked NEORSD employees who served as members.

She explained that NEORSD projects taught students about infrastructure and commended   efforts, focus and dedication of students to the program. Dreyfus-Wells encouraged students to consider working for “The District” once they complete higher education.

“We need great minds like yours to build and maintain the infrastructure that keeps our great lake great and the rivers and streams in Northeast Ohio,” she said.

NEORSD has been an ACE Cleveland sponsor for ten years and a co-lead with Dominion Energy at Collinwood High School for six years.

“This is who we are. We are all about mentorship,” said Sands, recognizing the importance of mentorship and speaking about the kind of relationship building the program provides. “They work and they give confidence. They are connections for life. That’s why I’m here.”

Sands shared a personal story and offered advice. “All of the people are now your mentors. Keep track of them.”

CSU become ACE Cleveland’s first college partner in 2013, providing matching scholarships to students who go on to attend CSU.

This year, ACE Cleveland awarded $80,000 in scholarships to eight Cleveland-area students.

Since its inception in 2008, ACE Cleveland has provided over $1.2 million in scholarships to over 180 students. Next year, a new scholarship will be awarded to an ACE Cleveland student, in honor of Orlando Taylor, LEED AP BD+C, of Turner Construction Company, who was recognized nationally as one of six 2021 Engineering News-Record (ENR) - ACE Outstanding Mentors.

A jury of previous Outstanding ACE Mentor award winners selected six exceptional mentors as 2021 Engineering News Record (ENR Magazine) — ACE Outstanding Mentors. Their contributions to students, fellow mentors, and affiliates epitomize the dedication and effectiveness of ACE’s over 4,100 mentors. Each of their affiliates has received a student scholarship to be named after them.

Taylor is the first ACE Cleveland mentor to be recognized with the honor.

“I was surprised, totally surprised,” said Taylor. “I had no idea.”

Taylor has been volunteering with ACE Cleveland for about 10 years and estimates he’s worked with over 150 students. He brings in people to show and reinforce things he discusses. He volunteers with ACE Cleveland because “it’s needed.”

“Why do you go to school?” Taylor continued. “You go to gain some motivation and inspiration to figure out what you want to do in life. We’re introducing them to something. It’s really cool. And, we get another $2,500 scholarship. That’s something tangible.”

The scholarship will be awarded next spring.

“Orlando really enjoys interfacing with youth,” said Glen Shumate, ACE Cleveland executive director. “He really connects with students in a meaningful way and impacts them.”

In another national win for ACE Cleveland, Gregory George III, Cleveland affiliate architecture student at John Hay, was awarded the CMiC-Allen Berg Memorial scholarship. During the virtual event, George presented a design-build project he developed throughout the year with the guidance of his mentor.

The CmiC-Allen Berg Memorial scholarship honors the late founder of the construction management software company, CMiC. With the support of Berg’s family, the program awards $400,000 in new scholarships annually to students who are planning to study architecture, construction, and engineering in college.

The scholarship competition is competitive. Among 11,000 national ACE Mentor Program students, each of the 77 affiliates can only nominate only one student. Nominees go through a two-stage review process to assess merit and financial need.

George has been involved in ACE Cleveland for two years. He will attend Kent State University, where he will major in architecture. In addition to the $12,000 CMiC scholarship, George was awarded an $8,000 scholarship from ACE Cleveland.

“The place where I grew up was very underdeveloped and forgotten about,” said George during his student presentation video, when asked what makes him uniquely qualified to work in urban design and tackle urban problems.

“Seeing that as a kid, and wanting change, sparked me to want to get up and do something about it. This is my way of making change in my neighborhood.”

Karungi “Nadia” Kabaseke, a John Hay High School graduate who plans to major in engineering at Case Western Reserve University or Rochester Institute of Technology, was awarded the Tari Rivera Women in Engineering scholarship. The award, named after Tari Rivera, president of Regency Construction Services Inc., is meant to recognize a woman pursuing a career in the engineering fields. The award includes opportunities for job shadowing and continuing mentoring opportunities for the recipient.  

“I’m honored and humbled,” says Rivera. “It feels like a bit of a legacy for me all the years I’ve worked with ACE.”

Rivera, who has been in business for 28 years this upcoming September, has volunteered with ACE Cleveland since its founding in 2008. She has been an active board member for more than 10 years, serving as chair for two years.

She looks forward to meeting Kabaseke and is willing to mentor her.

This summer, with support from Midtown Cleveland, Cleveland Foundation, Youth Opportunities Unlimited, National Association of Minority Architects, Contractors Assistance Association, National Society of Black Engineers, and the Ohio Governor's Office of Faith Based Partnerships, ACE Cleveland will provide a 6-week ACE Summer Experience that includes hands on sustainability related education, career/professional development through Dale Carnegie Training, paid stipend and placement with an employer.

“It’s a deeper dive into ACE,” said Shumate. “Not just a summer camp, but truly an experience with a very comprehensive educational and career development programs.”

To learn more about ACE Cleveland visit. or email Glen Shumate at

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