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ACE Mentorship students pitch lakefront development plans

Together — although physically separate — a group of Milwaukee-area students recently pitched their plans for a new lakefront development as part of a program meant to encourage kids to pursue careers in construction.

In its third year, the ACE Mentorship program has brought experts in the construction industry together with students from Milwaukee-area high schools to pitch a plan for a mixed-use development on Milwaukee’s lakefront. Forty-five students, representing seven area schools, were originally scheduled to present their ideas on March 12 at an event sponsored by Milwaukee Tool, the Associated General Contractors of Greater Milwaukee and the city of Milwaukee and held before 200 people at the Northwestern Mutual Headquarters.

Then came the coronavirus.

The Lakefront team's rendering.

The Lakefront team’s rendering. (Rendering courtesy of HGA)

With an in-person event out of the question, organizers scrambled to meet virtually. Students ultimately delivered their 45-minute presentations using Zoom.

“We had to make an extremely hard decision with emerging information on COVID-19,” said Adam Jelen, senior vice president of Gilbane Building Co., and chairman of the ACE Mentor Greater Milwaukee board of directors. “Our biggest concern was the safety and care for our students and guests, so there was no other choice but to postpone, and then eventually cancel the in-person event.”

Three student participants — who are planning to pursue careers in architecture, construction or engineering — won $20,000 worth of scholarships in total.

Lorenzo Sianez, Jr., a senior from Carmen School of Science & Technology, Southeast, won a $10,000 national ACE Mentor program scholarship. Additionally, Carlos Cavada and Kimberly Saavedra, seniors from Carmen, each received a $5,000 scholarship — one from The Associated General Contractors of Greater Milwaukee and one from the Milwaukee ACE chapter.

A number of construction industry officials are supporters of the program. The ACE program’s founding board members include Jelen; Paula Verboomen of HGA Architects; Carol Post of Thornton Tomasetti; Bill Ball of Grunau; Martha Kelley Koenig, also of HGA; and David Meyers of Milwaukee School of Engineering. With interest in the program growing, the board has added three more members:  Tim Jones of Mortenson Construction, Brent Pitcher of GRAEF, and Amanda Larson of the Carmen School of Science & Technology.

About Nate Beck, nbeck@dailyreporter.com

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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