To 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.