“Wow. I wish I could do ACE." I distinctly remember being surprised by this thought during my junior year at Notre Dame. Since my freshman year, I was drawn to ACE. I had attended nearly every ACE event without thinking I would ever apply. I was an avid supporter and cheerleader who carried the ACE-decorated water bottle, magnets, and posters, but I was also an accounting student on track for a career in finance. At the time I couldn’t imagine a way to reconcile these two forces.
What would people think if I strayed from the path set before me? Would I have anything to offer ACE, with a degree in accounting and no background in education? Could I really move to a new and unfamiliar place for two years? These questions consumed me as I wrestled with fear and doubt, but they were continually overpowered by the joy and excitement I felt in my heart whenever I thought of ACE. As I began to pray and seriously discern the decision, I realized that I had been falling in love with ACE and its mission subconsciously for years. I wanted to help those in need, challenge myself, and grow closer to our Lord. Then suddenly, this choice made sense. I could do ACE, and I wanted to do ACE.
My “yes” to ACE during my junior year as an intern was the product of a deep calm and sense of purpose in my heart, something wildly unfamiliar to anything I had ever felt before. My “yes” was wrapped up in a desire to serve, to be pushed to grow, and to develop spiritually. It was an excited and nervous “yes” that would come to bear more fruit than I had imagined.
Three years later, I still say “yes” to ACE, and this “yes” has taken on new meaning. My “yes” is for the 31 students in my fourth-grade class who show up each day ready to learn, forgive, and love. My “yes” is rooted in cultivating my relationship with Christ, celebrating Mass as a school each week, and hearing the most joyful rendition of “Shine, Jesus, Shine.” My “yes” is colored by witnessing a student solve a long division problem, throw his hands in the air, and receive a round of applause from his peers. My “yes” is inspired by living with community members who comfort me, encourage me, and eat ice cream with me after a tough day. Quite simply, my “yes” has transformed me.
Saying “yes" to ACE may not have been the easiest decision I have made, but it has certainly been the most life-giving one to date. My days are tiring and challenging, but full of grace and growth. As my students and housemates teach me unprecedented patience and selflessness, I am confident that this ministry is forming me into a better daughter, friend, and disciple. Three years ago, ACE said “yes” to me, and I am grateful that God has given me the strength to say “yes” in return.
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