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ACE Graduate to Serve as President of Cristo Rey Jesuit HS in Chicago

Written by William Schmitt on Thursday, 19 January 2012.

Antonio Ortiz, a graduate of the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) who has embodied a commitment to Catholic schools throughout his career, will become president of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago, effective June 25, 2012.

The school's board of trustees and presidential search committee announced recently that Tony had been elected to succeed Rev. Jim Garland, S.J. The announcement is headlined at the school's website.

Cristo Rey Jesuit, founded in 1996, enrolls more than 500 students. Located in the Pilsen/Little Village neighborhood, it serves low-income Latino communities. The school is part of a distinctive network of Cristo Rey schools that offer a college preparatory education to children for whom other private schools are not a financial option. Indeed, the Cristo Rey school model started at this Chicago site, and there are now 24 Cristo Rey schools across the country, of which Cristo Rey Jesuit High School is the largest.

"If you look at the education and experience that have prepared me for this very important responsibility, I would have to credit Notre Dame—both my undergraduate studies and the ACE Program—as having inspired me to focus on the mission of Catholic schools," Tony commented following the Cristo Rey announcement. "As enthusiastic as I am about the opportunity, I'm also a little bit nervous to be the first lay president. However, I know I have the ACE Program, resources, and ACE Advocates to lean on for support and prayers!"

Tony previously served at Cristo Rey Jesuit for ten years, with titles including Associate Principal and Director of Foundation and Corporate Relations. His experience in the ACE Teaching Fellows program, during which he earned a Master of Education degree, included teaching for two years at a Catholic grade school in the border area of Mission, Texas. He graduated from ACE in 1999 as a member of the program's fifth cohort.

In 2010, Tony received ACE's Michael Pressley Award for Excellence in Catholic Education.

"I was raised in a family where my parents emphasized Catholic education as our absolute number one priority," said Tony in his recent email. "My experience in the ACE Program shaped my value system, work ethic, and spiritual life. I am now eager for the opportunity to return and continue advancing [Cristo Rey Jesuit HS] as one of the most important works of hope and opportunity for so many families who simply want the best education for their children."

Tony was among the ACErs profiled in the 2010-2011 ACE Annual Report. At that time, he was serving as director for partnerships and outreach at the Big Shoulders Fund. The fund provides millions of dollars annually for scholarships, instructional equipment, and facility improvements in Catholic schools in Chicago's neediest areas.

In the profile, Tony described his vision of ACE's future—providing more and more graduates the opportunity to enter leadership positions in education and public policy and giving more children access to the transformational benefits of excellent schools.

"The most important expression of ACE's mission," he said, "will be when traditionally underserved students, who have benefited from ACE teachers, reach their personal and professional dreams, as well as improving the quality of life for families and communities."

Tony holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA from Loyola University Chicago. He and his wife Brenda have two children, Garbiela and Antonio.

Using the Cristo Rey model adopted in other cities, Cristo Rey Jesuit utilizes the Corporate Internship Program. All students participate in this work-study program, through which they work five days per month in entry-level jobs in Chicago firms. In this way, they fund a majority of the cost of their education.

ACE congratulates Tony and joins in prayers for his continued success in service to young people through Catholic education.

Study of Students' Gains from Good Teachers Affirms ACE's Focus

Written by William Schmitt on Thursday, 19 January 2012.

A major new study of teachers' long-term impacts on their students affirms ACE's commitment to form and support excellent teachers as a key part of its mission to sustain, strengthen, and transform Catholic K-12 schools.

The New York Times summarized the results of the study in a January 6, 2012, story: "Elementary and middle-school teachers who help raise their students' standardized-test scores seem to have a wide-ranging, lasting positive effect on those students' lives beyond academics." The effect includes higher college enrollment rates, higher earnings, and lower teenage-pregnancy rates.

The study, conducted by three Ivy League economists who monitored 2.5 million students over a period of 20 years, asserts that high-quality teachers can make a large, measurable difference for their students over time. The scholars have been disseminating their results in a report, The Long-Term Impacts of Teachers: Teacher Value-Added and Student Outcomes in Adulthood, not yet peer-reviewed but available online. Value-added is measured here by students' improvements in standardized-test scores.

The report "underscores that by focusing on teacher quality, ACE has been investing in all the right things," comments Dr. Christian Dallavis, director of the Notre Dame ACE Academy initiative in the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) at the University of Notre Dame. "And the study highlights the urgency of our mission to help teachers focus on student growth."

ACE's formation programs have been educating teachers for service In Catholic schools since it was founded in 1993. Participants in the ACE Teaching Fellows program are selected in a competitive process from among talented college graduates across the country who are passionate about serving young people through Catholic education. Three "pillars" in ACE's approach to formation of educators emphasize professional service, community life, and spiritual growth.

Other ACE programs also support the teaching function in a range of ways. One program, the Notre Dame ACE Academies initiative, currently supports three under-resourced elementary schools in partnership with the Diocese of Tucson. The commitment to provide an excellent education to the at-risk children in these schools emphasizes resources for high-quality teaching and measurement of student performance.

"This research informs our Notre Dame ACE Academies efforts by helping us deploy our resources more effectively," says Dallavis. "We use value-added test scores to identify both the teachers who need the most support as well as the teachers whose skills qualify them to mentor their colleagues."

The study—by Raj Chetty and John N. Friedman, both of Harvard University, and Jonah E. Rockoff of Columbia University—can be accessed at the website. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof highlighted the importance of the findings in a Jan. 11 op-ed piece.

Vocations Retreat: Guadalupe and Grace for Discernment

Written by William Schmitt on Monday, 16 January 2012.

No single event captures ACE’s emphasis on personal spiritual growth quite like the annual Vocations Retreat. As the latest retreat concluded on Jan. 1, 2012, more than a dozen ACErs came away with unique experiences to guide their discernment of a possible religious vocation, having immersed themselves in the culture and the spirit of Mexico City and the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

One indelible memory, says Rev. Lou DelFra, C.S.C., ACE’s chaplain and director of pastoral life, was the celebration of Mass in the Basilica, during which the 14 discerners were invited to approach the altar—and the miraculous tilma image of Mary—to receive a blessing. The Mass, with a congregation of about 2000 in the Basilica, was concelebrated by Father Lou and by Rev. Joe Corpora, C.S.C., ACE’s director of university-school partnerships.

“The Mass was offered for the vocational discernment of the participants,” says Father Lou. They approached the altar through the Basilica’s “pilgrim door.” This was a highlight of a retreat/pilgrimage during which the ACErs—men and women from ACE ACE Teaching Fellows, the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program, and ACE Advocates for Catholic Schools—“got to engage both the Mexican culture and the Mexican Church.”

The six-day retreat also included Mass in the Mexico City cathedral of the world’s largest archdiocese and meetings with religious from the area.

But other conversations were equally important—meetings the ACErs were able to have with the ACE retreat leaders. In addition to Father Lou and Father Joe, talks and guidance were offered by Sister Gail Mayotte, SASV, a member of ACE’s faculty of supervision and instruction, and by Sister Kathleen Carr, CSJ, associate director of ACE Consulting. There was also time for quiet reflection.

The annual retreats, of which this one was the fifth, welcome ACE alumni and formation program participants who may be at any stage of discerning their possible future as a priest, sister, or brother. Some are close to scheduling entrance interviews at convents or seminaries, says Father Lou.

“We’ve had a number of people enter into religious life from the first four retreats,” he points out, adding that he’s confident the Mexico retreat will bear similar fruit. As an illustration of that fruit, he notes, two former ACErs are in this year’s class of candidates for the Holy Cross priesthood.

Why should a movement for sustaining, strengthening, and transforming Catholic schools have such an affinity for religious vocations? “People in ACE experience giving their lives away so intensely every day in the classroom,” Father Lou responds, “they feel that tug—what if God is calling me to give my whole life in service to God’s people?” While some ACErs are inquiring more deeply into that vocational call, others have said they are praying in support of those inquirers.

This affinity, as expressed through the retreats, bears even broader fruits. “It’s really creating a culture among the ACE community where peers are encouraging vocations to all walks of life—and including religious life, which is pretty uncommon in today’s culture.” Peer support is crucial in nurturing a vocation, says Father Lou, noting that a key in his own decision for the priesthood was the previous response of his friend to a priestly call. That friend is Rev. Sean McGraw, C.S.C., co-founder of ACE.

The choice of Mexico City as the site for this vocations retreat was easy, given the significance of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the Church as well as the connection to ACE’s Latino initiative, the Catholic School Advantage campaign, Father Lou says. Earlier retreats have been held at the Holy Cross Novitiate in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, as well as the Holy Land, and Montreal. The latter was timed with the canonization ceremonies for Holy Cross first saint, Brother Andre Bessette.

Vocational discernment will continue to be important in ACE, says Father Lou, and assisting ACErs along those lines will happily remain a vibrant part of the ACE community.



Traditions Enrich Faith, Family, and Schools

on Thursday, 12 January 2012.

Since Catholic School Advantage school partners were introduced in Chicago in June 2011, I have worked with an increasing number of schools that have expressed interest in reaching out to the growing Latino communities around them. Within this outreach is the opportunity to enrich their faith life and cultural life by growing their annual school traditions. The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, celebrated on December 12, inspired a number of schools to do just that. Below are just a few examples of schools that have embraced new cultural traditions and integrated these along with other long-standing celebrations, inclusive of all.

Juana María Sánchez
Consultant, Catholic School Advantage – Chicago

JuanaGuadalupeUpdate1St. Colette (Rolling Meadows, IL)

St. Colette recited the novena for the nine days leading up to December 12. Each class took a turn leading the rosary. Between decades of the rosary, Mr. Trejo, one of the dads from the Hispanic choir, led the class in song. They sang "Las Apariciones Gudalupanas". On the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe the school processed into the church with candles and roses made out of crepe paper. Then, the Spanish class from St.Viator High School acted out the appearance of Our Lady to Juan Diego. The rosary was recited, and Mexican hot chocolate and sweet dessert bread were provided by the parish's Hispanic Ministry.

St. Kieran (Chicago Heights, IL)JuanaGuadalupeUpdate2
St. Kieran School celebrated the miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe and mission of Juan Diego with a presentation at Mass depicting the events of Our Lady's visit to Mexico. Students wore peasant costumes, presented roses at the shrine and paid homage to the likeness of the Lady on Juan Diego's sarape. After the procession out of church by the characters, the student body followed Juan Diego to the gym for a reception of authentic Mexican hot chocolate and sweet baked bread. This celebration was a collaborative effort among the art teacher, religious education coordinator, school students, and the Parent Teacher Network. Great things happen when great people work together. Further, during this holiday season St. Kieran School has formed a partnership with St. Paul's Catholic Church in Chicago Heights to bring joy and comfort to the neediest of parishioners. Through the efforts of the school children and their parents, as well as the St. Vincent DePaul Society, the Women's Club, and parishioners of St. Kieran Church, a collection of warm clothes (hats, coats, gloves & scarves), food, and toys for children were donated to St. Paul's pastor, Fr. Rene. He came to St. Kieran for the first truckload of items. Another delivery was made on December 19th. The children in the school even created their own Giving Tree to help in the collection. The true spirit of Christmas lives in hearts of children who embrace the honor to serve others less fortunate.

Academy of Our Lady (Waukegan, IL)
The Rosary Club of Academy of Our Lady School in Waukegan led a Rosary for The Blessed Trinity Church on Wednesday, December 7th. It was a special evening for the 30 children of the Rosary Club. They attended a Spanish Mass with fellow parishioners and then led everyone in the Glorious Mysteries. The children prepared bilingual prayer pamphlets, which they gave to all the families present. Sharing their faith is an important part of their ministry. It was a special evening for the students as they joined the parish in celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

St. Agnes of Bohemia (Chicago, IL)

St. Agnes of Bohemia Catholic School is a pre-kindergarten through eighth grade parish school located in Little Village, on the southwest side of Chicago. The school serves low-income and immigrant families, with Mexican and Mexican-American students comprising over 90% of the student body. The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a very special feast for the St. Agnes of Bohemia School and Church. "Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe" has a central place in the hearts of the Latino community because she appeared to Juan Diego on the hill of Tepeyac in Mexico City. Our Lady shared her love and invited the Mexican people to follow God. She is also an important symbol for the immigrant community because she was an immigrant who did what was best for her family. At St. Agnes of Bohemia School, we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in several different ways. On Friday, December 9th, we honored Our Lady, along with the grandparents and other senior citizens in our community. The entire school celebrated Mass with the guests of honor. The eighth grade students shared the story of Juan Diego and Our Lady through a skit before the homily. All of the seniors were then invited to a brunch in the school lunchroom. The guests were welcomed into a cheerfully decorated room to share a meal and time with their friends and neighbors. Some of the school staff members and parents cooked the food, and the eighth grade students served the guests. The eighth grade students truly enjoyed serving and spending time with the seniors. Following the brunch, the guests were invited into the school gym for a Christmas Program. The students sang songs with their grade and as a whole school, telling the story of the Nativity. A small group of students created a living Nativity scene to add a visual image to the meaning of the songs. The program ended with the entire school singing "Feliz Navidad" to wish our guests a merry Christmas. The Mass, brunch, and Christmas show to honor seniors in the community and Mary have been a tradition at St. Agnes of Bohemia for over twenty years.

From the Field: Evan Rhinesmith

on Wednesday, 11 January 2012.

This week, third grade teacher Evan Rhinesmith (pictured above, far left) shares his thoughts about the ACE experience.

On choosing ACE
The biggest motivation for me to join ACE was the desire to help provide a quality education to children who otherwise would probably not get one. My older brother, a member of ACE 14, told me that it would be extremely hard work, but I would meet a lot of great people and experience a lot of rewarding moments.

On his ACE community
I live in an amazing community in Northeast, Washington, DC, with 5 other ACE teachers. Four are from ACE 17: Tim Malecek (above, 3rd from left) and Mary Jenkins (4th from left) teach high school at Don Bosco Cristo Rey in Takoma Park, MD; Lindsey Shambaugh (far right) and Jack Kelly (2nd from right) teach at St. Thomas Moore in Southeast DC. Joining me in ACE 18 is Alyssa Bellinder (2nd from left), who teaches high school math at Archbishop Carroll High School in Northeast DC. The 17s have been great for both Alyssa and me in terms of supporting us through our first year of teaching. It has been a valuable experience living in an ACE house and getting to know each of them.

On teaching and learning
I teach in Northwest Washington, DC, at Sacred Heart, a bilingual Pre-K 3 through 8th grade school where every student receives instruction in both Spanish and English. Because most of my students are not native English speakers, my biggest challenge initially was finding enough ways to explain a concept so that all my students would understand it. But because they approach every day with a willingness to learn, I have learned to be more patient—which makes it so much more fun to be with my kids. That has been an enormous personal victory.

On making a difference
I think I'm making the biggest difference for my kids by being interested in them. Just asking them questions about themselves—how they're doing, what they did after school, what they're going to do on the weekend—really makes them want to come to school and learn. One of my kids struggles sometimes with behavior; he was a challenge, especially at the beginning of the year. Right before Christmas, he seemed a little down, so I asked him if he was alright. He said, "Yeah, I mean, I'm glad I get to go home and play, but I like to be able to come here and learn and hang out with you." I never realized how much he liked to come to school. That was really awesome to hear!

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