When Monticello native Ace High was awarded the Diversity & Inclusion Award from Dunwoody College of Technology, Ace wasn’t quite sure how to react.
A trans-gender student at Dunwoody (who prefers to go by “they” or “their”) Ace hasn’t also felt that they have lived in a world of diversity.
They haven’t always felt included in the world either.
That might be a product of the world Ace lived in.
Ace High got pregnant as a teenager. They were also a high school dropout. Drug abuse and homelessness were a part of Ace High’s life. So was time spent in rehab.
Because of questions regarding their sexuality, struggles in school and struggles with life in general, Ace High often saw the bad side of the world- a world where being different wasn’t always accepted, and people were excluded because they didn’t meet the definition of a social norm.
As a student at Dunwoody College of Technology, Ace set out to change that.
The Diversity & Inclusion Award is presented to a student who promotes multicultural and diversity initiatives at Dunwoody and throughout the greater community, according to the college. It’s because of the relentless determination Ace High experienced in the face of adversity that Ace has being awarded Dunwoody’s 2019 Diversity & Inclusion Award.
In 2017 Ace earned an associate of applied science degree in Machine Tool Technology. They are now working towards a degree in industrial engineering.
While Ace acknowledges the work made in the classroom have been wonderful achievements, it is the work outside of the classroom that might be the most rewarding.
Ace was behind the formation of Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) at Dunwoody and a meeting space for the GSA. They were also behind a movement to have gender-neutral restrooms on campus.
It’s all about making people feel comfortable in their space, Ace says.
“The meeting space also serves as a room where someone can go and lock a door behind them to get some privacy in those moments when they are feeling vulnerable or just need some time alone. They now have a safe place to go,” Ace said.
They also co-founded of a new student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, has brought to Dunwoody an awareness of gender-inclusive pronouns; and has advocated for students with disabilities.
Ace has also been an advocate for homeless youth. Recently High went around campus taping up posters for a donation drive for homeless youth, according to the college.
Youth homeless is near and dear to their heart. It’s what often brought Ace to Monticello- the home of Ace’s grandparents and uncle.
“When ever I needed something, my grandparents were there for me,” Ace recalled.
“Because of them, Monticello is a place of good memories and while I call it my home,” Ace said.
Monticello is also where Ace’s love for engineering was born. They’re uncle was an engineer and Ace was able to see some of the uncle’s work in action.
When Ace realized they could do some of the cool things their uncle did through engineering, it wasn’t a matter of Ace working hard to become an engineer, but rather, what kind of engineer would Ace work to become.
Ace pursued the field of industrial engineering for a simple reason.
“I was fascinated with the process of making things more efficient,” Ace said.
Ace is also interested in the ergonomics of machines and making them more user-friendly.
With a career path now clearly etched, Ace High knows they have a bright future in engineering.
But it has become somewhat of a surprise to Ace that they also foresee a future in working to make the world a better place.
“At first when I was told I would be receiving the (Diversity & Inclusion Award), I didn’t think I deserved it,” Ace said.
Ace didn’t see themselves as a game-changer.
“But I came to realize I helped change things through my actions,” Ace said.
Others got on board and worked toward the mission of forming the Gender-Sexuality Alliance, creating a safe place for people with diverse backgrounds, fighting for gender-neutral bathrooms, and helping combat youth homelessness.
Ace wants to be part of facilitating change as they more forward.
“I learned I have a voice, and I don’t want to lose my voice,” Ace said.
Reach Jeff Hage at firstname.lastname@example.org