Data from the first survey of graduates of the 15-year-old ACE Mentor Program of America, a non-profit organization that introduces high-school students to architecture, construction and engineering, indicates that more than 65% of ACE alumni are pursuing design and construction majors. Of them, 37.7% are studying engineering, 22.4% are studying architecture, 5.3% are studying construction and 1.4% are learning a skilled trade.

Survey results indicate 97% of ACE alumni graduate from high school, compared to 73.4% of students nationwide. The data also indicates 94% attend college, compared to 68% nationally. According to the survey, female ACE participants enter college engineering programs at double the national rate, and more minorities and students from low-income households are enrolled in ACE than all other after-school programs in the U.S.

“We changed the complexion of the engineering schools,” says Charles H. Thornton Jr., the Stamford, Conn.-based group’s chairman and co-founder.

ACE Mentor Program alumni beat national statistics for high-school graduation and college entry.

Some 75,000 students have attended the program since its inception. ACE graduates from 2002 to 2009 were invited to participate in the survey. Of the 3,666 queried, 933 responded. Of those, 454 graduated from the ACE program in 2009.

The program was formed with the goal of increasing the ranks of construction professionals. ACE groups are mentored by designers and builders who volunteer their time over a 15-week course. There are 70 ACE affiliates that serve more than 300 communities around the U.S.