Opening paths and minds
The idea started with a sleepless night in 2013 for Chip Rohrbach, vice president of F.A. Rohrbach Inc., Allentown.
Rohrbach was serving as chairperson of the Lehigh Valley Council of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Eastern PA.
After a career day presentation for his son's seventh grade class, Rohr-bach could not stop thinking about his presentation on his career as a concrete contractor and how it seemed so foreign to his son's classmates.
He thought how entering the construction field after graduation from high school or college seemed so abstract.
"How do we go about creating an interest or even an awareness of the construction industry as a successful career opportunity?" he wondered.
Rohrbach took his idea to the ABC Council meeting and laid the ground work for creating mentoring programs in high schools throughout the Lehigh Valley.
"It all started with an education committee, we were lucky enough to have Kristy Pollock, from Klover Contracting Inc., Quakertown, serving as chairperson," Rohrbach said. "Kristy was on a mission to track down resources and she had the wherewithal to get a mentoring program off the ground."
On a visit to Parkland High School, Pollock found a hidden treasure.
During his years at the high school, Darpan Patel had a drive to learn from others' first hand experiences.
"I shadowed various professionals within the medical, law, and business industries looking for a way to help people in need and in a creative fashion." Patel said.
The shadowing was rewarding but Patel did not find it a satisfying career solution.
"In my early years of high school, I developed an appreciation for architecture through the classes I took," Patel said. "While taking those courses I was encouraged to take part in high school architecture competitions.
"We competed and placed, yet I was still hungry to dig deeper and find out if it was the only way I would be able to help those people in need who impacted me early on in life."
Patel's thirst for learning more about architecture led him to find ACE Mentor online.
He knew the moment he came across it, he had to be a part of it.
Unfortunately, ACE Mentor programs were not active in the Lehigh Valley then, but that did not stop Patel.
Patel worked tirelessly to bring the first affiliated ACE Mentor program to Parkland High School during the 2007-08 school year.
"Through my first year as an ACE student, I not only learned what other disciplines, such as construction managers, engineers, and landscape architects do, but I also learned there was an incredibly competitive friendly rivalry which was going on amongst each of the disciplines.
"I was able to network with professionals who not only helped me through high school but were also able to help me forecast a clear vision toward the future."
After graduating from Parkland in 2009, Patel went to Philadelphia University where he earned his Bachelor's degree in architecture in May and is an architectural designer for Wallace Roberts & Todd LLC, Philadelphia.
Unfortunately, do to time restraints and funding support, ACE Mentor program at Parkland and in the Allentown School District ceased in 2011.
Rohrbach, Pollock, Patel and the Lehigh Valley area construction industry, however, are bringing back the ACE Mentor program this fall to Parkland High School.
"We made contact with the architects and engineers who were committed instructors in the previous program and they were more than interested in getting back in the classroom and sharing their knowledge," Kristy Pollock said. "We also were very fortunate the Parkland educator, Jim Kester, was still interested in helping advise the students and overseeing the program from the high school's point of view."
Rohrbach summed up why the program is important.
"Students need opportunities to see everything available to them in the work force," Rohrbach said. "Our infrastructure is the building blocks of our industries, lifestyles and future progress and the individuals creating fundamentals need to be nurtured and supported to go out there and explore. "ACE Mentor Program is the perfect opportunity."
For information on becoming an ACE Mentor or contributing to the program, email kpollock@ kloverinc.com.