The Foundational Perspective

As we have mentioned in our previous blog posts, ACE really began as a high school completion program to reduce dropout rates. However, it has since transitioned and now focuses on a culture of postsecondary attainment.

Whether we discuss high school completion or education beyond high school, the Foundation has a strong belief in the discernable power education affords. So this week we thought we would bring you some more insight into why the Foundation invests so much in education and #whyACE is important.

So first, back to that discernable power thing. Basically the Foundation believes education has visible, positive effects on the circumstances of an individual over the course of his or her lifetime. The greater the population of educated individuals within a community the stronger the community. It’s statistically proven that community with an increasingly educated workforce has a stronger economy, a larger local talent base, and a larger percentage of citizens involved in volunteerism and advocacy work. Education is a powerful tool for the individual, but even more powerful when a community of educated people live and work together.

Responding to donor interest in a local high school completion program, previous Amarillo Area Foundation President and CEO, Jim Allison was instrumental in putting ACE together and worked hard to make ACE a success. We spoke with Allison last week and he had this to say about ACE’s initial intent: “We created ACE because education fastens a community and really allows it to prosper. By creating ACE we wanted to give everyone an opportunity to go to college if they worked for it. We knew if ACE was successful it would make Amarillo unique and make our community collectively responsible for the achievement of our students.”

We also spoke with past superintendent and current Amarillo Area Foundation Board Member, Rod Schroder and he echoes Allison’s sentiments of the ACE program. “To me ACE is all about the vision building. It removes the barriers of college because we give kids the option to visualize how going to college is possible for them if they would like to go,” Schroder said.

“We start by encouraging our students to gain some marketable skills by getting a two year degree at Amarillo College. Then we use that as a springboard to help them go for two more years at WT if they would like to do that.” According to Schroder, “ACE basically says ‘We want to help you change your circumstances and help you attain a living wage.’”

One of the biggest lessons Schroder has learned about ACE from his time as an educator, is that not every student will take the opportunities given to them through ACE. Although the basic ACE requirements are to follow school rules, and maintain 95% attendance and a B average not all students see the benefit of meeting those requirements.

“When I discovered that it wasn’t just the finances that were a challenge for our students, but also the culture and mindset surrounding college I realized ACE also needed to be about something different,” Schroder claims. “It has to be about a culture of going to college so our students believe they can go to college.”

When asked specifically about what he appreciates about ACE as a board member Schroder had this to say: “I am so appreciative of the donors who have stayed with the ACE program and continued to give to make it successful as it has evolved. As Superintendent I got to travel around and meet administrators from other schools, and their programs weren’t even comparable to ACE. Especially because ACE is a private initiative funded by local donors. ACE was envisioned to be, and in my eyes is still very unique for that reason.”

So there you have it, Foundation leaders past and present weigh in and the verdict is: the education of every citizen in Amarillo matters and is the responsibility of our whole community. Leveling the playing field for Amarillo’s more economically disadvantaged students is a commitment of the ACE program, and its donors. Regardless of if leveling that playing field requires money, a tangible visible path to college, or some combination of the two.

Please meet us back here this time next week for one on one conversations with some of Amarillo’s top educators. You’ve heard about the Foundation’s perspective on the history, logistics, and objectives of ACE, it’s time we hand over the mic to AISD and let them share their perspectives with us.

See you next week!

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