Category Archives: West Texas A&M University

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.” 

NLNE The Partners: West Texas A&M Univesity

No Limits No Excuses: How did WTAMU get involved with No Limits, No Excuses?

West Texas A&M University: My understanding is that James Hallmark – who was the Provost at the time – had been involved with Amarillo Area Foundation and Panhandle 2020 and he was the first to hook in to what is now No Limits, No Excuses. I think they called it PPS at the time. So, he was the Provost and I was the Associate Provost, and he knew that I had been involved in  P16 initiatives for a while as a faculty member and so he asked me to start attending the meetings, and shortly after that, he left the university to go to College Station and I became the Provost.

But by that time, I think I knew enough about it that we had to be involved and  it’s something I feel strongly and passionate about, so rather than delegate it to someone else, I tried to maintain my role there. We’ve had several other people who have been involved in it as well.

 

NLNE:  What’s kept WT’s involvement during the five-plus years since No Limits, No Excuses has started?

WT: Well, I think you have to step back and look at the big picture. First of all, we’re an educational institution and so, educational attainment and providing people with high quality higher education, that’s the core mission of what we are. No Limits, No Excuses, even though it moves in lots of different directions, it looks at poverty, it looks at job training and all these other things, at its core it’s still about increasing the educational attainment of the region that we’re located in.

 

We can only thrive, we can only grow if the area that we’re located in is thriving and growing as well, and so in a sense, that’s maybe self-serving because a strong Panhandle means a strong WT. But more importantly, it’s what we’re put here to do. It’s our goal. It’s our mission. It’s to reach as many people in the area as we can and provide them with educational opportunities, and I think to partner with Amarillo College, to partner with AISD, to partner with business and to integrate ourselves into the community even more strongly than we already are.

 

NLNE: How has the partnership increased your relationship with other institutions?

WT: I guess I’ll answer that in two parts. Personally, I have gained such a broader understanding of how Amarillo College operates, the leadership there, their mission and certainly, the same is true of AISD. For a lot of people at the university, we don’t have to think very much or very hard about the independent school districts that are in the region.

I always joke about college professors who think that their students drop from the heavens on the first day of class, and don’t have any prior experience or knowledge. So, to learn about the issues facing them, to learn for instance, about the level of poverty, the number of children who are on free and reduced lunches, to learn about the breadth of programming that Amarillo College has.

All that is knowledge that I carry to meetings that I have on campus when we talk about, what’s our goal, what’s our vision, how do we connect with these people? It just provides me with the breadth of knowledge I didn’t have, and then connections, quite honestly, to important people like Russell Lowery-Hart and Dana West. I would probably not move in those circles otherwise if I didn’t have this connection.

As an institution, I think that the answer is also very similar. I try to share that information as I said, in meetings when I’m with the deans, when I’m with the President, when I’m with other people, to either clarify things or to point out chances for us to partner, or chances for us to work on a common initiative. Dr. Wendler is very open and very interested in those sorts of things, so I think that will pick up some steam now that he’s assumed his leadership role here on campus. Continue reading

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.

 

#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.

Continue reading

#WHY ACE: They’re Already Winners

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The Evolution of ACE on WT’s Campus

Kyle Moore, Director of Admissions at West Texas A&M University (WT), is perhaps the largest advocate of ACE we have met thus far in our blog series. And, no, he was not an ACE student nor is he compensated for giving ACE promotional pitches, but he does so on a regular basis and we wanted to figure out why.

Upon meeting Mr. Moore and thanking him for agreeing to talk about ACE with us, he immediately divulges, “No, thank you. I am pleased to talk about ACE and how it has increased in scope as well as quality in regards to the type of students it delivers.”

Flattered to say the least, we push for more insight from Moore.

“Previously,” Moore affirms, “ACE used to be a label if you will, indicating to professors that ACE students may require more one-on-one help, more mentorship. But that is not the case anymore. Professors now ask for and look forward to having ACE students in their classes because they are coming to college more prepared than the average student.”

Moore proceeds further with his compliments of ACE by stating, “In admissions we look forward to hiring ACE graduates. They understand deadlines, they have an incredible work ethic, and they are eloquent and polished.”

And we think Moore sums up “the ACE student” perfectly when he says: “ACE students are already winners. They overcome a lot of barriers to get to college, and that confidence instilled in overcoming those barriers gives them a momentum and progression to continue succeeding in college. ACE students are not students who couldn’t get to college without AAF’s support, they have that drive within them. They are going to college and excelling in college because of the preparation AAF’s support has given them.” Continue reading

#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

Going Digital: No Limits No Excuses Acquires App, Co-Pilot, and Virtual Job Shadowing to Engage High School Students

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No Limits No Excuses is in the midst of significant work that’s engaging students for success beyond high school. We are creating a smartphone app that guides students as they make plans for education beyond high school. The app will aid them as they navigate the waters between high school and college, and help them decide what it is they want to do. The app is designed specially to appeal to high school juniors and seniors as well as college freshmen. This is when students need to give serious thought to their plans. We are working with AISD’s counselors to ensure that the app will help them engage students and improve college success.

NLNE has also made an exciting purchase of CoPilot software. In CoPilot’s database, through data shared by AISD, AC, WTAMU, and Cal Farley’s, we will be able to track a student from one institution to another. This will allow us to see that our NLNE student engagement events are leading to postsecondary success. The sharing of the data in CoPilot emphasizes one more way NLNE is collaborating to strengthen our community.

As we begin to engage students, we have to make decisions about what that looks like. We could plan career fairs and other events to engage students, but these events are often expensive and have only short-term effects. The Workforce Workgroup has come up with an idea modeled after the extremely popular Humans of New York social media campaign. We are calling it a virtual job shadow, or job fair. We will partner with large local employers who utilize a diverse workforce to introduce students to jobs available in Amarillo. This is exciting because it puts the emphasis on jobs and employers in Amarillo, but more importantly it engages students to see what occupational opportunities are available to them locally.

We are just winding down our FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) contest which has been a huge success. We are encouraged as we continue to engage students and work to eliminate barriers to postsecondary education in Amarillo, especially as graduation approaches for 2016 seniors.

by Broc Carter