Written by: Eric Prister
Three Catholic schools in Tucson have embraced an innovative model for their students’ success—a local partnership with the University of Notre Dame and the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) that includes increased community and corporate support and seeks to meld the various aspects of school life into one culture.
The culture emphasizes two goals, college and heaven,
which are on the mind of every student, every teacher, and every administrator. These three schools, the Notre Dame ACE Academies, are in the spotlight as Notre Dame’s National Bus Tour visits Tucson April 27-30. Leaders of ACE who have come to celebrate the schools’ approach are mindful that their mission to sustain, strengthen, and transform Catholic schools does indeed entail melding a number of factors together.
Schools need strong teachers to motivate and cultivate the young minds they instruct. They need strong leaders to take the reins and elevate schools to their fullest potential. No matter how strong the school, it means nothing if students don't have access to the school. Thus, ACE places high priority on improving opportunities for all students, regardless of background, to benefit from the gift of Catholic schools.
Through initiatives such as the Program for Educational Access and the Catholic School Advantage campaign, ACE strives to open the doors of Catholic schools to as many children as possible.
Moreover, ACE is in its 20th year of building its multifaceted approach to serve Catholic schools by recognizing the importance of school culture. Every aspect of a school—the way its teachers teach, the way its students learn, and the expectations of both—is wrapped up in the culture that ultimately makes a school great.
As the ACE bus tour arrives in Tucson, we reflect on the how the Notre Dame ACE Academies and their distinctive culture unite and build upon various aspects of ACE’s 20 years of service—its commitment to providing a quality education as well as making that education more accessible to all children. Each year, ACE sends nearly 200 teachers to Catholic schools around the country—talented, faith-filled young people, ready to make a difference in their students’ lives. ACE also fosters the growth of future school leaders with the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program.
The Notre Dame ACE Academies in Tucson—St. John the Evangelist School and Santa Cruz School—are the original sites for this unique university-school partnership model. (Two schools in the Tampa Bay, Fla., area have adopted the model, as well.) Thanks to the combination of strengths and commitments found in the culture of these Tucson schools, including exceptional leadership and support from the community, nearly 750 children are experiencing a transformational education and are closing the academic achievement gap.