National Architecture Week Day 7: Architecture’s Future – AIA New Jersey Members Team with Allied professionals to Support Architecture’s Future

April 28, 2018

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AIA New Jersey recently had the pleasure of interviewing ACE Mentor Program Cumberland County, NJ Team Leader, Lawrence J. Merighi, AIA, about the vibrant program supporting Architecture’s Future Leaders across our state. The following is from our conversation and from…



The ACE Mentor Program of New Jersey is an affiliate of the larger national ACE mentor network. Their mission is to engage, excite and enlighten high school students to pursue careers in architecture, engineering, and construction through mentoring and to support their continued advancement in the industry. More than 9,000 students from 1,000 high schools across the country annually participate in ACE.

The ACE Mentor Program of New Jersey is the third oldest affiliate in the country, starting in 1999 with two teams in Newark. The original program began in 1994 in New York. The New Jersey program is very well supported by AIA NJ members with 13 of the 37 architecture, construction and engineering mentor firms coming from our membership ranks. New Jersey has 7 ACE teams this year: Cumberland County, East Windsor, Hudson County Schools of Technology, Middlesex, Morristown, Newark and Teaneck.
Each of the teams follows the same model:

– Mentors from architectural, construction management, and engineering firms meet with teams of 20-25 students fifteen times after school between October and March

– At these sessions, students learn what architects, construction managers, and engineers do from mentor presentations and hands-on activities

– The sessions are “project driven” and just as would happen in a real-world design/construction project, all members of the team participate in developing the project

– Other “real world” activities include field trips to construction sites and apprenticeship facilities.

– At the end of the ACE season, all our teams are brought together at a final presentations night and given the opportunity to “present” their projects

– The program culminates with a fund-raising breakfast at which scholarships are awarded to deserving graduates of the program.


Since it began awarding scholarships in June of 2000, ACE New Jersey has awarded $428,250 in scholarships to 288 deserving graduates of the program.

To Donate, Volunteer, Mentor or Register as a Student Participant, visit the ACE New Jersey Affiliate Website by clicking here. 


The ACE Mentor Program of New Jersey is headed up by Board President, M. Cristina Martinez.




AIA New Jersey Mentoring Firms include:

Bruce D. Turner, Architect

Clarke Caton Hintz

Design Ideas Group

DiCara Rubino

Fletcher Thompson Architect


Hill International, Inc.

Jarmel Kizel Architects & Engineers

KSS Architects

LAN Associates

Manders Merighi Portadin Farrell Architects

NK Architects


USA Architects


Larry’s Team in Cumberland County supports students from 6 area high schools, with 6 AIA New Jersey members supporting their projects and development:

Larry Merighi, AIA
Yazmin Moreno, Associate AIA
Katelynn Parent, Associate AIA
Bruce Turner, AIA
Phil Giambri, AIA
Charles Ragonese, AIA

As necessary, those teams can call on additional support from:

Steven Graham, AIA
David Manders, AIA
Holly Manders, AIA
Peter Farrell, AIA
and others from Larry’s firm.

 Here is a summary of their accomplishments this year, from Larry…

The students have been coming to my office in Vineland the past month or so to work on their final projects with Yazmin and Katelynn in both CAD and SketchUp, generally two groups at a time for one hour or so.  For me personally there are several reasons for this – they get to practice expressing their ideas verbally rather than in sketches, they get to see their designs unfold in real time via SketchUp, their designs are more professionally rendered which gets them excited about their projects and they will eventually have documentation that they can use in their portfolios, etc.
ACE suggests we meet at least 15 times during the year.  We have met over 20 times to date and we have had 10 presentations by engineers, planners, architects and past ACE students who are either still in school and or working in an ACE-related profession.  This is in addition to our paper and K’Nex bridge projects, the spaghetti and marshmallow tower project, and the private retreat design project.   We have a big group this year (28 students) and eleven final projects instead of four.  As the mentors know, it’s a lot of work.  For the most part, the students have been both engaged and enthusiastic.  Also, this is the most diverse group we’ve ever had participate on the  ACE Cumberland Team thanks to our school advisors.  It always makes my day when I hear when the ACE seniors will be going to college and I think ACE had a small part in this.
The final presentation will take place at the Arts & Innovation Center in May. 
 The final presentations for the other 6 teams will be held on May 8th, 2018 at the New Jersey Institute of Technology Campus Center.
If you would like to attend, please e-mail your interest to
To Donate, Volunteer, Mentor or Register as a Student Participant, visit the ACE New Jersey Affiliate Website by clicking here. 

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