Scholarships and Awards Highlight First Year of Columbia/ACE Student Mentorship Program

On May 7, 2009, students from the Columbia University's Manhattanville ACE Mentor Program pilot team joined their fellow New York City chapter teams at the Chase Metrotech Center in Brooklyn to present their final project. The project, in which the team members picked a site in the Manhattanville project area and created a mock design from the ground up,  incorporated the team building, communication, and design and construction skills learned throughout the program cycle.

The ACE Mentor Program, a not-for-profit organization, helps prepare high school students for careers in the fields of design and construction. This year's Manhattanville team met regularly from October 2008 through May 2009 to plan and design innovative projects mirroring "real-world" conditions, while mentors helped them develop solutions using basic problem-solving techniques and state-of-the-art design tools. Mentees also benefitted from the unique emphasis on clean construction practices, a growing field for future employment opportunities and a hallmark of Columbia's long-term plan in Manhattanville.

"The ACE Mentor Program is a perfect example of Columbia doing what it does best-helping to educate and create opportunities for young people," said Columbia's Vice President of Manhattanville Development Philip Pitruzzello.  "Seeing the students so engaged while working with Manhattanville team members was a proud moment. It really demonstrated what a significant impact this program can have on young people's lives."

Following the presentation of final projects, the ACE Mentor Program of Greater New York held its annual scholarship luncheon on May 28, 2009 at The Union League Club to celebrate the completion of its program. During the closing ceremony, approximately $185,000 in scholarships were awarded, including an award to Jennifer Henriquez, a Manhattanville ACE team member who received a $5,000 scholarship - one of the highest scholarships awarded.  In addition, Marcelo Velez, Columbia's Associate Vice President of Manhattanville Development received the Private Sector Award for his work during the past two years as an ACE board member. 

"I profoundly believe in ACE's mission," said Velez.  "I couldn't have been both more proud of our team and impressed with the overall quality of the final presentations."

Velez is responsible for project management and construction of Columbia's new 6.8 million square foot campus in West Harlem and has been with the University since 1995.  In addition to his work with ACE, Velez serves as Vice Chair of the Greater New York Construction User Council. 

 "I'm a native New Yorker and a Puerto Rican whose parents worked very hard and dedicated their lives to provide opportunities for me and my siblings," said Velez.  "I understand first-hand the immense influence that mentors and role models can have on many young people today. Programs like ACE can open up a new world of career opportunities that may not have otherwise been possible."