The Amarillo Area Foundation initiated the ACE scholarship program in 1994 in partnership with Amarillo Independent School District, Amarillo College and West Texas A&M University. ACE began at Palo Duro High School in 1994 and at Caprock High School in 2002.
Three elementary schools in the Tascosa High School cluster were added to the ACE program in 2009 - Lee Bivins Elementary School, Margaret Wills Elementary School and San Jacinto Elementary School. Fifth-graders attending these three elementary schools will be eligible for ACE scholarship funds if they go on to attend Tascosa High School and meet the ACE program requirements for grades, attendance and behavior.
ACE provides access to higher education for students at these schools by providing numerous preparatory activities throughout each student's school career. ACE guarantees payment for tuition, fees, and books for up to 130 semester hours at Amarillo College (AC) or West Texas A&M University (WTAMU). Students receive the greatest benefit if they take 45 hours of core courses first at AC and then continue their education at WTAMU. Students can choose to start at WTAMU, but ACE will pay only as much as the cost of taking 45 hours from AC.
ACE is “last money in” meaning all federal and private aid is applied prior to awarding ACE scholarship funds. ACE requires high school students to pledge annually to maintain at least an 85 grade point average, a 95% attendance record and appropriate behavior while attending high school.
A $5 million fundraising campaign for the ACE program was launched in 2009 to support the addition of students from the three elementary schools in the Tascosa High School cluster.
An important piece of the program’s history, Ersela Demerson is the very first ACE graduate. She graduated in 1997 from Palo Duro High School and went on to receive her degree in social work from WTAMU. Ersela’s strong passion for helping people led her to become the Program Director at Sharing Hope Ministry. Receiving her degree debt free from the ACE Scholarship Program allowed her to focus on advocating for people who don’t have a voice. Ersela loves God, her work, her life, and enjoys reading, traveling, and adventures.
As the Amarillo Symphony’s Marketing Manager, Zivorad Filipovic fell in love with advertising and marketing while attending WTAMU after graduating from Caprock High School. His advertising professor, Lori Westermann, led him to follow his passion after taking one of her classes, while the ACE Scholarship Program helped Z pursue his dream career and to become the first person in his family to graduate from college. Z is an extremely outgoing person and is very involved throughout the community. His other passions include cooking, baking, hanging out with his friends and family, and photography.
Zivorad ‘Z’ Filipovic