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When a friend recruited Rich Guerena as a volunteer for the Architecture, Construction and Engineering (ACE) Mentoring Program, he expected to make a couple brief appearances. Five years later, Rich is a highly committed ACE mentor who spends two hours every other week inspiring high school students to pursue careers in design and construction.

Rich recalls a particularly memorable student who spurred his commitment to the program. “A couple years ago, a junior started with the idea that he might want to be some type of designer, but he didn’t really have any idea what that meant,” said Rich. With ACE mentoring, that student went on to graduate with a strong interest in architecture and a sizable scholarship to San Diego Newschool of Architecture and Design.

“He had been planning to take a few years off after high school to save money before he could attend college. With the scholarship money and his foot in the door at Newschool, he was able to begin right away. I think the ACE program allowed him to focus on what he wanted to do and got him started down that path right away.”

The San Diego branch of the ACE Mentor program continues to provide students with opportunities like the one that inspired Rich. At their Tenth Annual Scholarship Banquet last May, the local organization crossed the $1 million mark in total scholarship money awarded.

“The ACE Mentor program is great because students can get a taste of what a career in Architecture, Construction or Engineering might be like, learn about the different fields, how we work together, and get help making decisions about college and career paths,” said Rich.

Rich is proud to inspire a passion for architecture in the students he mentors and has been surprised by the impact the ACE program has made on his own life. “When I look at my last 17 years through their younger eyes, it reinvigorates some of that passion for what I do. Any time you have to explain your career, what’s rewarding and what’s not, the self-reflection helps put it in perspective.” Rich’s enthusiasm for his career is evident to coworkers and students alike. He was recently named Senior Associate and plans to continue mentoring as well as looking for other ways to give back using his talent.