High School Students Propose New Athletic Facility for Old Vineland Speedway Site

April 5, 2010

Students (from left) Melissa Garcia of Vineland High School, Nadia Albino of Bridgeton High School and Rosa Melillo of Vineland High School work on a model bridge.

Students (from left) Melissa Garcia of Vineland High School, Nadia Albino of Bridgeton High School and Rosa Melillo of Vineland High School work on a model bridge.

Architecture, Construction and Engineering Mentor Program Introduces Students to Design Careers in Cumberland County.

Students from six area high schools have proposed a new athletic facility for the former Vineland Speedway site as part of a unique mentoring program they have been participating in since September.

The student plan calls for a new athletic complex for both Cumberland County College and the community, including a major enclosed field house, tennis courts, basketball courts, two baseball fields and two softball fields, several soccer fields, and parking for 1,000 cars. Twenty-five students have participated in the strictly academic exercise through the Cumberland County Chapter of the Architecture, Construction and Engineering (ACE) Mentor Program of NJ.

The students meet every two weeks after school at Cumberland County College with local architects, contractors and engineers serving as their mentors and instructors. Participating high schools include: Bridgeton High School, Cumberland Regional High School, Vineland High School, Millville High School, Sacred Heart High School and St. Augustine Prep. In designing the plan for the 40-acre site, the students met with the athletic director of the college and several local high schools to discuss the needs of the community.

“We hope the students get a better understanding of the careers that deal with the building and construction environment,” said Vineland Architect Lawrence Merighi of Manders Merighi Portadin Farrell Architects. “We try to help them understand project programming, help them develop their own creativity and learn to work in teams. We have at least a half dozen students that really do show great promise and have already been accepted into collegiate architecture or engineering programs.”

Student mentors also include architects Bruce D. Turner and David Manders; intern architect Steven Graham; engineers Beth Grasso and David Battistini of Pennoni Associates, and Matt Marcello of the Marcello Engineering Group; and contractors Andrew Fabbri of Fabbri Builders, and Steve Stein of Main Street Building and Development.

The ACE Mentor Program helps hundreds of high school students throughout New Jersey and New York get started in a building design career through a 15-week training program and college scholarships. ACE students are eligible for college scholarships, visit job sites, attend presentations, receive apprenticeship training classes, and conduct mock interviews. Each ACE student participates in a group or chapter that creates unique design projects based on their own interests. The training program culminates in annual regional group presentations by each group of students.

The ACE Cumberland team is in its sixth year and students received presentations on careers in structural engineering, construction management, architecture, civil engineering and historic preservation. During two “hands-on” projects, the students learned how to construct a bridge using K-NEX construction sets and to build a “Spaghetti and Gumdrop” tower. Students also went on a field trip to the construction site of a new cancer treatment facility for South Jersey Regional Health System and a second field trip is planned for Rowan University’s College of Engineering.

The ACE New Jersey program is an affiliate of a national non-profit organization that provides mentoring opportunities to about 13,000 high school students considering careers in architecture, construction, engineering, or related fields. ACE mentors are charged with providing mentoring and scholarship opportunities for the students as they move through their secondary education and support them in making decisions about their future. For more information, please visit www.acementor.org.

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