2022 marks the 10th anniversary of the A.C.E. Youth Project, founded in 2012 by Damian Humphrey of Enfield, Connecticut. The Achievers Continuously Exploring (A.C.E.) Youth Project started as an afterschool STEM program at three Hartford schools as a pathway for People of Color to get exposed to STEM careers.
A.C.E. is built on the idea that African-American and Latinx students can achieve at a high level if they are inspired, guided, and supported by educators who believe in them, while also holding them accountable to a high standard. Their goal is to eliminate the “Exposure and Expectation Gap.”
Founder Damian Humphrey of Enfield Connecticut, a socio-educational entrepreneur, set out to provide a pipeline for Black and Brown students into STEM colleges and universities. He personally invested in the launch of A.C.E. so that participating students could receive STEM tutoring in math, science, and reading. He also supported mentoring services by fellow Black and Brown college students known as A.C.E. Coaches. Finally, with his funding, students did site visits to MIT Media Lab, University of Connecticut Water Treatment Facility, and Pratt & Whitney’s Engine Museum.
As a founding director, Humphrey created working partnerships with parents, students, teachers, and administrators managed a staff of ten, and supported school retention initiatives to engage underserved students.
Funding shortages halted the A.C.E. Youth Project in 2016 but are now reactivated as a response to the impact of COVID-19 on education. The new A.C.E. program has expanded to include both afterschool and summer programming and Academic and Financial Aid Counseling Services for high school college students and their families.
Damian Humphrey believes that with supportive educators, systems, and tools, Black and Brown students can succeed. Damian himself experienced struggles as a Latinx student at a predominantly white institution. He moved to Boston from his native Panama in the fall of 1981 and had to quickly adjust to the new language, culture, and harsh winter weather.
In 8th grade, he took a school field trip that changed the trajectory of his life. He visited the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he met the first African-American astronaut to fly on the Space Shuttle Columbia, MIT graduate Dr. Ronald E. McNair. As a result of that brief encounter, Humphrey resolved to become a role model for his community and positively impact the lives of others like him.
Before the A.C.E. Youth Project launch, Damian worked tirelessly in and around education. He’s been an Adjunct Professor, elementary school Director of Operations, and Program Director at both the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and I.C.C./Hope Worldwide. He’s currently working on his M.B.A. from the University of Connecticut, Hartford, and has his B.S. in Organizational Leadership from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut.