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Pros advise in architecture, engineering
Aaron Weil with Derucki Construction, left, helps student Andrew Mesa with a construction model as part of the ACE Mentoring program at South Forsyth High School. - photo by Autumn Vetter

A group of teenage boys stood around scale models of buildings, architectural drawings and tools Wednesday morning.

They eagerly pointed out details of the structures and drawings to two adult visitors.

The students are part of the ACE Mentor Program at South Forsyth High School.

Short for Architecture, Construction and Engineering, the ACE program encourages professionals in those fields to work with high school students interested in learning more about them.

The national organization was recently named one of eight recipients of the 2010 Pres-idential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring.

According to a news release from ACE, the award recognizes the critical role mentoring plays in academic, personal and career development of students studying science and engineering.

John Derucki, owner of Derucki Construction Co., founded the local chapter three years ago.

He and Aaron Weil, also with the firm, visit the school every two weeks to lead club meetings.

“Forsyth County has such a wonderful educational system, I thought it would be pretty cool to carve out something like this here,” Derucki said.

Nick Crowder, technology teacher at South, serves as the faculty sponsor of the group.

He said Derucki and Weil provide valuable professional and hands-on learning opportunities for the more than 20 students involved with the program.

“With the 10th anniversary of 9/11 this [school] year, they’re learning how to build skyscrapers,” Crowder said. “Some of them are also working on a project that involves designing a senior day care facility, so they’ve built scale models of that.”

But the program isn’t just about constructing models, he said.

Crowder explained how Derucki and Weil help the students learn all aspects of the construction business.

“When you look at Manhattan, you just see all these huge skyscrapers … but you also have to think about the soil,” Crowder said. “That soil has to be special to hold all those millions of pounds that are compressing down from those buildings.

“So we’ve had basically college-level lessons just on dirt, the different types of dirt, what types work for what types of construction. Those are the sorts of things most people don’t think about, but they’re helping the students learn all about it.”

Derucki and Weil also use their professional contacts to bring in others, who talk to the students about areas such as architecture and civil and mechanical engineering.

“We want them to have full knowledge about every aspect of the construction business,” Derucki said.

He said he’s been impressed with the students’ work.

“It’s astounding to me how quickly these kids are able to understand really complicated issues,” he said. “They ask really good questions. They’re very bright young men and women.”

Weil said he has enjoyed watching the students’ understanding grow over the years.

“I like seeing things as they progress,” he said. “Through this program, I’ve gotten to see that progression in the kids as they learn.”

South senior Kevin Nelson said the program has given him a career path.

“I love [ACE] because it gives me insight into architecture,” he said. “I’ve learned about all the stuff that I thought I knew, but really didn’t.”

Nelson added that the professional assistance has been invaluable.

“The one-on-one time with people who really know what they’re talking about has been great,” he said.

Fellow ACE member Andrew Mesa, a sophomore, agreed.

“It’s given me a place to apply what I want to do,” said Mesa, who most enjoys the hands-on aspect of the program.

“I’m able to say that’s why something is built that way.”