ACE Academy cooks up bright futures for outer East Portland students

It was more than the grilled burgers and hot dogs that brought out prospective students to this BBQ! See what students and their parents really hunger for …

Dr. Richard O’Connor, Jon Taylor, and Evan Pine, here are cooking up hot dogs and burgers at the Ace Academy BBQ.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The air was filled with the scent of grilling hot dogs and hamburgers at the Willamette Carpenter’s Training Center in Northeast Portland not long ago, as the ACE Academy, opening in September, held an open house for future students and parents.

“This is the home of the Academy for Architecture Construction and Engineering – we call it the ‘ACE Academy’,” said Dr. Richard O’Connor, president of the newly-organized academy’s board of directors.

“ACE Academy is a charter school that is sponsored by four school districts: Parkrose, Centennial, Reynolds and Gresham/Barlow,” O’Connor said. “The Oregon Building Congress, and the construction and engineering and architectural industries, have worked together to create the school.”

When the school bell rings in September, O’Connor says they’re on track to open with 150 students. “We’re starting with students who are in their junior year of high school. They’ll continue on as seniors next year, when we’ll bring in a new group of juniors to the program.”

By the end of the second year, they expect to have as many as 400 students in the program, O’Connor told us.

Michel Taylor, educational director for the school, introduces the ACE Academy staff (seated to our left) to 150 parents and prospective students who attended the BBQ event in May.

Blends technical training with traditional high school
Michael Taylor, the educational coordinator at the school, explained to students and their parents that the ACE Academy isn’t just a glorified “shop” class.

“At the Academy, you’ll learn from experts in the industry on some days; but on alternate days, you’ll continue your high school experience – participating in educational and social activities,” Taylor said.

“For a project to be successful, it’s not only up to the architect designing it; it’s up to engineers who make sure it will be structurally sound. And, their designs can be realized only with the work of skilled carpenters, sheet metal workers, electricians, plumbers, and every kind of labor that make sure that the building is constructed properly.”

Creating pathways to construction trades
At the event, we asked Bob Strader, chief financial officer for Associated General Contractors, why their organization supports the new, start-up school.

“It’s critically important that we start creating pathways for young people to find a career in construction, plain and simple,” Strader stated.

AGC is a trade association representing commercial contractors throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington,” continued Strader. “Our #1 objective has been to identify our future workforce, and to create pathways for them into the industry. We have millions of baby boomers who are retiring; leaving a big void behind them. Those industries which see this turnover in the workforce coming – and which prepare for it – are the ones which will prosper in the future.”

Taylor says the area in which the group now sits will have classrooms and an atrium built overhead by the time the ACE Academy opens this fall.

Check it out today
If you are the parent of an interested student who will be a high school junior in September – or know of one, who lives in one of the participating school districts – now is the time to check out this program. Each district is allocated a limited quota of students – so check it out now.

You can find out more information at their web site by CLICKING HERE.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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