ACE Grad Helps Students Unlock Door to Lifelong Success
Somewhere in the Maryland wilderness fourteen years ago, while hiking with a friend to traverse the 2,167-mile Appalachian Trail, Dr. Scott Carlin experienced what he calls his ACE epiphany.
This wasn't a sudden call to a vocation in education. Carlin had developed a love of tutoring others while still a high school student in Michigan. He earned teacher certification as a member of Notre Dame's class of 1997 and later worked as a substitute in classrooms in Phoenix. However, Carlin said he lacked a passion for full-time teaching. Then, in 2000, this avid hiker's trailside moments of reflection, informed by praise he had heard for ACE Teaching Fellows, prompted a life-changing realization.
"It hit me that I needed to go through the ACE experience," Carlin said.
He soon applied and was accepted, starting the M.Ed. curriculum in 2001 and quickly realizing that the people around him—his fellow ACE teachers and the faculty, joined together by the pillars of community and spiritual growth—opened new vistas for his life as an educator.
"Working, living with discipline and perseverance, and experiencing that high caliber of intellect and character and individuality and creativity all in one place for two years—it can't help but change the way you see the world and make you better," Carlin said.
His journey became a more self-confident climb, with the master's degree proving to be only the beginning.
Several bold steps following his ACE graduation in 2003 took him to Michigan State University to earn a Ph.D. in Curriculum, Teaching, and Educational Policy, and then back to Notre Dame to join the academic services staff for student athletes. Along the way, inspired by his love for the Appalachian Trail, Carlin attracted donors to a Hike for Higher Education Scholarship Fund he helped establish. The fund assists college-bound students at his hometown public high school in Buchanan, Michigan, and they are still informed by his ACE experience.
"The pillars of ACE—with their qualities of spirit and solidarity—play into our selection criteria for the scholarship," Carlin said.
Carlin's wife Stacey teaches at Buchanan High School, and the couple recently gave birth to their third child (two others are 6 and 4 years, respectively). But besides all these ventures, Carlin has left the Notre Dame position and has been investing for several years in an entrepreneurial expression of his teaching vocation. He sees his firm, Michiana Test Prep and College Consulting, meeting high school students' needs and affirming the mission of ACE while helping to launch promising young people on their own successful life journeys.
Michiana Test Prep and College Consulting aims to give high-quality preparation for college entrance exams—the College Board's Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the ACT readiness test—to students in Michigan and Indiana who otherwise might lack access to professional preparation due to distance or affordability, Carlin said. The instruction takes many forms, from private sessions to limited-size courses to intensive presentations for large portions of a school's junior class. He's worked with students from at least three dozen Michigan schools and a dozen Indiana schools. Students with special financial needs receive scholarships to trim the fees.
He also provides counseling for students preparing their college applications, plus professional development for teachers so they can integrate college test preparation into the curriculum of their regular courses. (Students' average ACT performances serve as a metric for assessing Michigan schools.) Carlin's latest initiative, now in the pilot stage, produces a live webinar so students can remotely attend his test prep course, watch him make notations, and ask him questions—all at an even greater savings in travel time and course costs.
"I'm not forgetting my ACE roots," Carlin said. He enjoys the feeling of having made a difference in students' lives.
"It was great going to their Facebook page and reading that their class's composite score had jumped for the latest test," Carlin said. "The best part is when somebody gets an admission letter from a college they really wanted to get into and their score helped them get in. [But] it's not about the score. It's about what door these scores can help to unlock."