Tag Archives: Amarillo Independent School District

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

 

Amarillo Area Foundation Announces Completion of ACE Expansion Campaign

Blog_headerWednesday, August 31, 2016

AMARILLO, TX – In 2009, the Amarillo Area Foundation made a commitment to grow the ACE Endowment by $5 million. Growing the endowment allowed the ACE program to expand its outreach to three elementary schools in the Tasocsa High School cluster. Fifth graders attending Bivins, Margaret Wills, and San Jacinto elementary schools are now eligible for ACE scholarship funds if they enter Tascosa in their freshman year and maintain the program requirements for grades, attendance, and behavior.

This past May, 39 Tascosa seniors graduated ACE eligible, joining 154 of their ACE colleagues from Palo Duro and 192 ACE graduates from Caprock High School. Roya and Sheida Jaberiandoraji were the first two Tascosa ACE graduates.  Both girls completed high school in two years and began their college career at Amarillo College in 2014.  They are currently studying at West Texas A&M University this fall.

Since the first graduating class of ACE students in 1998, more than 4,800 students have graduated ACE eligible, 3,267 have attended college on an ACE scholarship, and 1,374 have earned a college degree or postsecondary certificate. Almost $6.5 million has been awarded in ACE scholarships and the Amarillo Area Foundation has helped students obtain more than $16 million in federal funding and other scholarship funds. ACE students have a wealth of resources to assist them in their postsecondary pursuits because of the dedication of ACE donors.

More than 2,000 donors have made gifts to ACE totaling over $9.9 million since the inception of the program in 1994. Individuals, corporations, and foundations made diligent efforts to provide lasting impact in the lives of ACE students and their families and also in the social and economic prosperity of the Amarillo community.

A special gift was made in honor of Robin Gilliland Weir by her husband, David Weir, to finalize the expansion. Gilliland Weir was Co-Chair of the ACE Campaign with Allen Durrett. Gilliland Weir commented, “I am so proud of our community for creating and funding ACE for 22 years. I have always loved this program because of how many lives it has touched.  To educate the youth of our community is a win/win for all of us!”

For Gilliland Weir, giving to ACE was also a familial legacy. “My parents have been donors to ACE since it began at Palo Duro and set an example of the importance of helping others to break down the barriers to a college education.  My husband is also a donor and is so understanding and supportive of the students who face challenges to postsecondary education.”

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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: 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

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: A Culture of Hope

Blog_headerAs we begin our fourth week of the ACE Blog series, we are shifting our focus to Amarillo Independent School District’s perspective on ACE. More specifically, we are letting AISD Superintendent, Dr. Dana West; Caprock Principal, David Bishop; and Guidance and Counselling Program Director, Tracey Morman do most of the talking.

Like good reporters we did some research on AISD’s mission and belief statements beforehand. Belief statement No. 2 immediately stood out: “We believe that education is the equalizer in our society and that our schools can and should provide a culture of hope for all children.” Sounds vaguely like ACE, no? So we decided to chat with Dr. West to see if she agreed.

AAF: When did you first learn about ACE and what was your initial perception of it?

Superintendent West: Well you’re going to laugh when you hear this, but I was new to Amarillo as a principal at Travis Middle School and I really just thought ACE was this assembly we did every six weeks encouraging attendance, grades, and good behavior. Obviously, my understanding has changed since then. The conversation transitions from “here’s a certificate and free pencil” to “people in our community will help you pay for and achieve your scholastic goals.”

AAF: That is funny. As an administrator what would you value most then about ACE?

Superintendent West: It’s our community’s commitment to our district’s mission. Graduate every student prepared for success beyond high school. What is your plan? Your community supports you.

AAF: You’re emphasizing both ACE and No Limits No Excuses with that statement. So I was really moved to see that one of AISD’s belief statements is that education is one of the great equalizers in our society and you believe that your schools should provide a culture of hope for all children. How do you see ACE contributing to that belief statement?

Superintendent West: ACE reiterates the culture of hope in our schools by emphasizing that everyone is committed to the economic development of Amarillo. ACE says our community realizes that our economic development relies on our scholars in our local schools. In many ways ACE makes our community put our money where our mouth is to show that support. We can then create hope in our students because we have a program that blatantly displays that community effort and support.

Creating a culture of community support all their own, is Principal David Bishop of Caprock and his staff. We sat down with Mr. Bishop and here is what he had to say:

Principal Bishop: ACE is a tool that helps us build a conversation around a K-16 plan instead of a K-12 plan. If you shape students to believe going to college is achievable and a part of their personal plan just like going to high school is, you would be amazed by how much they listen and internalize that message. ACE has specifically caused a cultural shift on our campus. College wouldn’t have always been a part of the conversation here 10-15 years ago.

AAF: Can you tell me a bit about what you have done to make ACE unique at your campus?

Principal Bishop: Well we have two really special features to our ACE program that are fairly new. We have the $25,000 check we give to each of our incoming freshman students on our Freshman Walk and we have ACE Insurance Agents.

AAF: Explain to me more about these checks. What are they?

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