ACE Academy students show off handiwork at Holiday open house

This unique school teaches more than simply ‘arts and crafts’. See why the projects on which these students are working will help them continue their education, or even land them a good-paying job …

ACE Academy engineering emphasis student, Logan Fanning, a Reynolds High senior, says he’s learning that projects must be designed and engineered properly, before they can be constructed. He’s showing his log cabin, built with pretzel stick logs and Triscuit cracker shingles.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Many high school students engage in fanciful Holiday crafts as the Christmas break approaches. But students at the Academy for Architecture, Construction & Engineering (also known as ACE Academy) in outer East Portland know they’re their projects are actually helping them learn real-life skills.

At their December 15 open house, Logan Fanning, a student coming from Reynolds High School – one of the four school districts participating in the ACE Academy program – was showing the model log cabin he designed and built.

“The best part about ACE program is that architecture this is something I’ve always wanted to learn. This program has inspired me and brought out my true passion for what I’ve wanted to do. I’ll go on to college already having knowledge and skills; other kids there will just be starting out from scratch.”

ACE Academy Director Mike Bryant says the program does more than just teach skills; it also helps youths prepare for life after high school.

Mike Bryant, who took over as director of ACE Academy from Michael Taylor, greeted us as we toured other areas of the school, located at 4222 NE 158th Ave. in the Pacific Northwest Carpenters Institute, and he told us that the unique charter school continues to flourish.

Their 150 students, coming from Centennial, Parkrose, Reynolds, and Gresham-Barlow School Districts, take general coursework and participate in campus life at their “home” school, while attending ACE Academy.

In the robotics lab, from left are Jonathan Nguyen-Mai, William Hayes, and Slava Zhuchenya, who decide how to build a robot that can perform specific tasks.

More than simply learning how to design, engineer, and build structures, Bryant pointed out, these students are also learning important life skills. “We’re preparing them to ‘take life seriously’ after they graduate. Students are exposed everything from union training centers, to community and four-year colleges. We ask our students to dress professionally, act professionally, and learn how to work in the adult world.”

Many 18 year olds coming out of high school are not sure how to behave in a workplace environment, Bryant explained to East Portland News.

“But our students do; they’re ‘heads-up and ready to go’,” he said. “They’re ready to do well, if they seek higher education. But also, students who apply themselves in our program find it easier to get on union [training and hiring] lists. And, we get calls from contractors looking for students because they’ve learned ACE Academy produces excellent candidates for employment.”

It’s not all computers and drawings, at the ACE Academy; these teams learn precision building skills while designing and building fireplace mantles.

Those young people who have a sincere desire to succeed, Bryant confided, do well in the program. But, because it’s not a rigidly-controlled environment – like one might find in college – students must be mature enough to benefit from this specialized form of education.

“We’d like to see a full student body of 200 students in our next school year,” Bryant said. “We have the program, the teachers, and the significant contributions of businesses and organizations in the industry that believe in our program.”

Instructor John Bardeschewski says ACE Academy students, like those in this team – Andrey Ivanov, Armando Aguilar, Chase Christian, and Josh Reyes – learn team-building, and the practical skills of drawing and revising plans, building framework, making and installing crown moldings, and doing professional tile work.

Fanning, who designed and built the edible log cabin, summed it up well when he remarked that without knowledge of architecture and engineering – including the building codes – no structure can be built. “If anyone has an interest in learning about these trades, I’d really recommend coming to learn about them at ACE Academy.”

Both young men and women who will be high school juniors in one of the four participating school districts are welcome to apply, for the coming school year. To learn more, see the school’s website: CLICK HERE to open their site, or call (503) 546-9928 to schedule a tour.

On our front page: the gingerbread Disneyland Castle is the creation of student Ryan Kendell.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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