Category Archives: Amarillo Independent School District

ACE Scholarship Program to Wind Down 

The current Achievement through Commitment to Education (ACE) scholarship program will wind down over the coming years as the Amarillo Area Foundation begins work with community partners to create a sustainable new program to help students gain an education beyond high school.  The Amarillo Area Foundation has operated the ACE program for more than 24 years. 

“The success of the ACE program will be felt in the Panhandle region for decades,” said Clay Stribling, President and CEO of the Amarillo Area Foundation. “We are proud of the success of the program and the scholars who were inspired to greater achievement through ACE.” 

The ACE program will continue supporting students who have signed an ACE pledge, including students who were classified as freshmen through seniors in high school during the last academic year and those pursuing higher education now. However, no new high school students will be enrolled in the program. 

“ACE will pay scholarships as long as funding remains, and the Amarillo Area Foundation is dedicated to the task of finding community partners to meet the commitment to existing scholars in the program,” Stribling said. 

ACE began in 1994 at Palo Duro High School and later expanded to Caprock High School and to qualifying students at Tascosa High School.  The program provided participants with college tuition, books, and fees if they met certain criteria. Since its inception, ACE scholars have earned 2,319 certificates and degrees, including 14 doctoral degrees. Approximately $8.3 million in ACE scholarships have benefited students over the life of the program.  

“Funding for higher education is a need for many families in our region, and we recognize it is critical to our future,” Stribling said. “As we continue our work with community partners on a scholarship program to address the needs of all AISD students, I encourage parents and others with questions, concerns, or ideas to contact the foundation.” 

The Power of a Grant

The Panhandle of Texas is a beautiful place full of open spaces and the best sunsets you’ve ever seen.  The 26-county area is also known to have more head of cattle than people.  The mostly rural landscape presents challenges when you begin to talk about student access to training for careers.  School districts in our rural communities have limited resources available for students to pursue studies in the area of healthcare.

The costs of implementing programs in healthcare are often too much for a rural school district to facilitate.  Lack of funding creates a problem for students to get clinical experience and familiarity in healthcare.  These issues persist while shortages of healthcare workers exist nation-wide.

There has to be a better way!  Thanks to the Coalition of Health Services, Amarillo ISD’s AACAL campus, and SimCentral there is a solution to these challenges.  Using technology to give students access to the training needed for in-demand careers is exactly the type of project that the Amarillo Area Foundation funds.

Here’s a look at the impact of this grant:

New Blog Series Announced!

We will be starting a new blog series beginning next week.  One of the programs of the Amarillo Area Foundation is No Limits No Excuses.  This initiative is made up of over 25 partners who are working to create pathways for post-secondary success.

We think you’ll find this blog series extremely interesting as you see the complete picture of why NLNE is so impactful.  You will also learn how the partnership is shaped and how it’s working to create a community with increased education across all socioeconomic levels.

We begin the series with a look at Workforce Solutions.  We will share these posts across our social media platform, but you can always subscribe to get our blog updates in your inbox, browser, or wherever you choose. Here the link to subscribe: http://bit.ly/aaf_RSS

 

The New Face of ACE

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ACE students have completed more than 1,374 certificates and degrees and are a projected to return $2.6 billion in lifetime earnings to Amarillo’s economy.

One of the most powerful features of the ACE Scholarship Program is its ability to leverage outside sources of financial aid.  Since ACE assists students in obtaining federal, state, and local grants and scholarships, we are able to send students to college for an average cost of $1,200 per year. The ability to leverage outside aid makes ACE an excellent educational investment in Amarillo students.

As we look forward to another 20 years of assisting ACE scholars, we are asking for your help in supporting the educational aspirations of our students.  Your $100 a month actually sends a child to college through the ACE program. Will you be a face of ACE?

Meet our current ACE supporters.

Meet Christopher, an ACE student.

Visit https://www.amarilloareafoundation.org/face-of-ace to become a face of ACE today.

 

Granting Opportunities: Gateway to Health Careers

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In honor of our 2015 Annual Report, which focuses on the various components of healthy communities, we wanted to highlight the work of a past grant recipient that is fostering healthy communities. The Gateway to Health Careers project coordinated by the Coalition of Health Services was an easy choice. The project received $125,000 in funding from two Amarillo Area Foundation supporting organizations and cultivates the health of 13 rural communities by providing health science education for its young people. The goal is to retain local talent for the healthcare workforce in rural communities, while also providing quality healthcare for local residents.

Need

Across the Panhandle instructors available to teach more nursing students are lacking, especially instructors that are able to facilitate instruction in rural communities. A lack of available equipment for training and a lack of facility space for students are also problems prohibiting accessible healthcare across the Panhandle.

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Finding Will

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I am busy. That’s my attitude most of the time. I am just too busy to solve the world’s problems. I am in the stage of life where balance between life, family, and work is key. I literally have no time. Besides, I am just me, one person, what can I do. I am sure you find yourself with the same sentiment at times.

Then, I sat through what I like to call “the indoctrination of Doug Curry.” Have you met him? Have you ever heard him talk about young people? He inspires you to put aside your own expectations or judgments. He talks about chance encounters and how to influence our young citizens. He has a plan to ensure all students are pestered until they create a plan for life after high school. So, now, wherever I go, I ask young adults, “What’s your plan?”

Doug and Dr. Dana West started this movement, and now I cannot stop asking the question. One day, an unsuspecting sacker at United, whom I will call Will, was just minding his own business. I asked him where he went to school, he said, “Tascosa, I’m a Rebel.” He said that in a way that let me know it wasn’t just his mascot, but perhaps a way of life.

Then I released the hounds, “What’s your plan after high school, Will?”

He stuttered and spurted and finally let it out: “I’m an artist, I don’t think school is for me.”

“Really? I have a ton of friends who are artists, and they all went to school,” I replied.

“Yeah, I don’t like people telling me what to do when it comes to art,” Will said back.

It was clear that I was dealing with the typical thoughts of teenagers, who today have a lot of pressure on them. “You know graphic artists are very talented, and they do really important work. The process of school will not make you lose your artistic expression, but more like unearth all the talent that’s within you. Amarillo College and WT both have great programs for artists,” I explained. Continue reading

#WHYACE: VOICES PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE

Blog_headerTo conclude our ACE series we thought we would celebrate graduation season by highlighting the voices of past and present ACE students, while also opening up the platform to the many future ACE students and supporters out there.

Representing the voice of ACE students past is Ms. Ersela Demerson, the original ACE graduate from Palo Duro High School’s Class of 1997. Ersela graduated ahead of her cohort in three years, the rest of her inaugural class graduated in 1998, making her literally the first ACE graduate.

AAF: Ersela, we think your ambition to graduate high school in three years embodies the driven spirit of ACE students, but in your own words can you describe for us what ACE means to you, and now as a leader in the Amarillo community, what you see it continuing to mean to students in the future?

Demerson: My situation wasn’t a stereotypical situation you might expect to hear about. Both of my parents were college educated, I grew up understanding the importance of education. For me, ACE solved an economic issue. My dad was a minister, and my mom was laid off at the time I graduated high school and was looking to go to college. So going to college was never a question, but how to pay for it was. I assumed I would have to probably take some time off during undergrad. But because of ACE I didn’t have to and I was able to go on after my bachelor’s and receive a master’s as well.

As far as what ACE means for students now and in the future I think it can be summarized as an opportunity for students to invest in themselves and their futures, while also receiving a sense of accomplishment for their work. ACE is a hand-up and not a handout. It may be a model stressing the importance of education and attendance for students not receiving that message at home, but more than anything, I think many students’ experiences were like my own and what they get from ACE is a phenomenal opportunity and a message of hope.

To see a video of Ersela where she talks about the importance of ACE click here

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Providing a voice for present ACE college students, is Makayla Ksor, a sophomore pursuing a degree in Fine Arts at Amarillo College. Unlike Ersela, Makayla’s parents did not attend university.

Ksor: ACE was always there when I needed assistance. I could always just email and make an appointment with an ACE advisor if I needed help figuring out the different aspects of being a college student. They also helped me in high school with deadlines and applications, managing expenses, which classes to take, and which college was best for me. Once in college I was even urged by ACE to become a part of a mentor program so that I could have an advisor with a major similar, if not the same to my own, who would understand my plight on a corresponding level. Yet, the biggest impact ACE has made in my college experience would be the financial support. The idea of student loans scared me.

AAF: Makayla, can you share with us what you wish others knew about ACE?

Ksor: When I ask students if they have ACE or not, most of them say that they lost their ACE in high school. I respond by asking, “Well, did you try to get it back by talking to an ACE advisor?” Usually, they just shrug and say, “No, it didn’t really matter to me.” It surprises me how many students would lose their ACE, not knowing how important it is to have or what it could do for them, or even just too afraid to ask about it. I feel like if students were more aware of what ACE really does for themselves and others they would care more about their own ACE and get the guidance they need.

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#WHYACE: For the Peeples

Blog_headerThis week we are visiting with the 2015 Council of Chief State Officers Teacher of the Year, Ms. Shanna Peeples. CCSO Teacher of the Year is the oldest most prestigious national accolade of its kind. Since receiving the award, Peeples since spent the past year traveling the globe as an ambassador for education.

Peeples is a graduate of West Texas A&M University, an ACE network university, and an AP English teacher at one of our ACE schools, Palo Duro High School. We are delighted to interview Shanna and capture her thoughts on ACE.

AAF: So Shanna, as an award-winning educator, what do you see ACE doing for your students?

Peeples: I am grateful that ACE has an attendance requirement because research strongly supports the correlation between a student just being in school and that student’s probability of graduating. It’s hard to overstate how much low-income students struggle with the demands of helping their families pay the bills. These demands can take the shape of time spent caring for siblings or other family members while the parent or guardian is at work, or in the form of work to help pay household bills. Or both. Those who are blessed with not having to make the choice between these kinds of demands and school attendance may have a hard time understanding the pressures faced by students who grow up in poverty. For many high school students in poverty, life is a constant cost-benefit analysis: what is worth more? Keeping my family on track or going to school today? ACE, in a very concrete sense, helps students see the benefits of education.

AAF: You’ve done a ton of traveling over the last year advocating for education. In your travels, have you recognized or heard about programs similar to ACE?

Peeples: I’ve not heard about programs similar to ACE in the way it is so broad-based and open to so many students.

AAF: One of the belief statements of AISD is that “education is the equalizer in our society and that our schools can and should provide a culture of hope for all children.” How do you see ACE contributing to that belief statement for students?

Peeples: Here’s the thing: hope is not an abstraction. Hope is built by the actions and the attitudes around us. That’s how I translate the belief statement. The use of the word “can” implies that what we do every day in our classrooms builds hope. And the word “should” means that it’s a moral decision to create that hope. What we choose to do or what we choose to neglect has consequences. This foundation of hope depends on our community to reflect the message to every child that they matter, that they have value, and that we expect them to take their places in our neighborhoods as citizens. ACE contributes to the belief with a solid plan for every student to meet those expectations in the way of financial help for college.

AAF: What do you wish our community knew about ACE?

Peeples: I want Amarillo to be proud of the fact that we have programs like ACE that are just plain smart economics. For every dollar we invest in education, we get triple in return, according to data from California State University. College graduates not only return millions of dollars to the state, but they tend to be healthier, have more stable relationships, and volunteer at higher rates – all quality of life indicators that make a city attractive to outside investors.

AAF: Triple the return, we’ll conclude on that note. It’s been an honor, we appreciate you taking the time to speak with us.

Peeples: Thank you for letting me speak about a subject I love: education!

That is all for this week. Join us next week, on the eve of AISD graduation, as we conclude our series with the voices of ACE students past and present.

Till next week!

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WHY ACE: All in

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“After high school comes college!” If you’ve been at any Amarillo ISD campus you’re probably familiar with this gregarious chant. It’s inspiring to see kids putting the pieces together from Pre-K to high school and on to college. In this week’s WHY ACE blog,
we wanted to see how ACE is affecting the college campuses, we’ll focus on Amarillo College this week and West Texas A&M University next week.

I think it’s fair to say that ACE’s success hinges on the willingness of all parties to collaborate. That becomes clear when we look at how much collaboration is required at the college level. At Amarillo College, they have created special processes designed specifically for ACE.

“We start our interactions in high school,” Kelly Prater, Director of Financial Aid at AC, says. “We have hands-on FAFSA nights, at all the ACE campuses while they are still in high school.”

The work doesn’t stop there; because one of the requirements of ACE is to apply for student aid every year. Prater and her team also work with currently enrolled students too.

“Now you have financial aid, and this is what you have to do to keep it,” explained Prater. “Once we have determined a student will qualify, ACE picks up any remaining balance keeping students from needing loans.”

ACE has had a profound effect on the Amarillo College campus through its 20 plus years. ACE brought new demographics of students to the campus and has changed who is attending college.

“Caprock became the number one feeder high school for Amarillo College. Since the 70’s Amarillo High had been,” explained Bob Austin, VP of Student Affairs. “And it’s not like there are less students coming from Amarillo High, but now with ACE, Amarillo College is the college of choice for Caprock students.”

In the early days of ACE, Amarillo College was certainly happy to have a new demographic of students on campus, but with new demographics comes some thinking about how to influence those students. Austin contends that higher education was not set up for students with the unique needs.

“Our attitude, historically, in higher education, has been, even if you’re admitted to the college you haven’t proven you’re college material until you navigate all the stuff we throw at you,” said Austin. “False obstacles that are designed to do nothing more than trip you up, and prove over and over again if you really deserve to be here. We are working hard to knock those down.”

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#WHYACE: The Foundational Perspective

Blog_headerAs 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.’” Continue reading