Skip to main content

Lessons Learned: The Impact of a Handshake on My Path to ACE

By Rachel Thompson (ACE 31 Intern)

Image of ACE 31 Interns (Left to Right: Grace Manion, Mary Rozembajgier, Rachel Thompson, Ashley Utnage, and Stephanie Ona

One of my first visits to South Bend was to see my brother during his senior year. Like any other Notre Dame fan, my family and I made sure to catch a football game, which always included a pre-game campus stroll. One time in particular, my brother introduced me to Fr. Nate, one of his mentors throughout college and one of ACE's faculty members. Knowing my interest in teaching, my brother hoped that meeting Fr. Nate would show me that I could still pursue my passion for education while attending my dream school.Image of Rachel Thompson with a PATH sign

Needless to say, a handshake with Fr. Nate had me convinced. I entered my first year on campus with a mission to continue introducing myself to as many people in the program as possible. With my psychology major and policy minor, I had the ability to pursue other academic interests while staying focused on my long-term goal of being a classroom teacher. This included taking courses in Education, Schooling, and Society, and actively participating in various endeavors within the Institute for Educational Initiatives (IEI).

A Zoom call with Alec Torigian led me to a summer teaching in Tucson, Arizona with the PATH Rising Teacher program. Teaching here inspired my passion for educating both the mind and the heart. My community members showed me the joys of sharing new experiences alongside a group of goal-oriented individuals.

A few moments of sitting down with Collin Gortner in Remick Family Hall guided me towards a summer with a non-profit in Los Angeles through the Frassati Internship. My mentor there taught me both the business side of supporting society's youth and the importance of new connections and relationships in my personal and professional growth.

A coffee date with Mary Claire Lewis (ACE 29, Philadelphia) had my heart set on taking part in the ACE 31 Early Commit Internship. Her passion and excitement inspired me to cherish every opportunity with my intern family and to approach every chance to recruit new members interested in ACE with enthusiasm.

Now, only a few months away from starting my first summer as an ACE Teaching Fellow, I recognize the importance of every coffee chat, conversation, and handshake. With each encounter, I am eager to embrace the lessons that lie in store and to seize every opportunity for growth and enrichment. Just as I have grown from the individual asking questions to the one answering, I am committed to continuing this journey of learning and teaching.