The surprise guest speaker at the ACE Mentor Program’s 25th Anniversary Celebration May 14 was retired Gen. Colin L. Powell. The former four-star general and secretary of state finds a lot in common between ACE and his initiative, the America’s Promise Alliance, of which he is founding chairman.

“You talk to young people who aren’t sure of what they want to do with their lives. You talk to young people who have difficulties at home,” Powell told the gathering of almost 400 students, parents, mentors and industry executives in National Harbor, Md. “They need an adult in their life. That’s what you all do.”

America’s Promise, with 400 national partners including ACE, commits to providing youth with caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, effective education and opportunities to help others. “ACE is strengthened by its association with the alliance,” says Diana Eidenshink, ACE president.

From its launch in 1994, ACE has grown to 74 affiliates in 36 states. This year, 10,000 students were mentored by 4,100 professionals, and ACE awarded $2.4 million in student scholarships.

The event was the first time that $400,000 in scholarships, ranging in value from $10,000 to $40,000, were awarded to 25 students through a gift from software provider CMIC in memory of the company’s late founder, Allen Berg. Scholarship winner Paulina Perales, who will attend the University of Houston this fall to study electrical engineering, told attendees how life-changing the scholarships can be. “I will be the first in my family to attend college,” she proudly told attendees.

“Keep pushing … keep growing,” Powell said, “Our kids need it, and America needs these youngsters.”

By Janice Tuchman in National Harbor