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Catholic School Champions

Passion for Catholic Schools is Ageless; Ambassadors of Hope Prove it in Denver

on Wednesday, 14 May 2014.

Notre Dame Award Recipient and ACE Grandmother Describes Youthful, Enduring Gifts of Time and Love

This story is written by Mrs. Joanne Horne, who received the University of Notre Dame Sorin Award for Service to Catholic Schools during our National Bus Tour's visit in Denver. She is the grandmother of Meghan Hanzlik (ACE 13) and Gillian Hanzlik (ACE 18).

03.12.14 - Denver - Horne The idea of the Ambassadors of Hope Program was sparked twelve years ago as I sat at a Seeds of Hope luncheon. Seeds of Hope is a charitable organization that funds over 1,000 disadvantaged children a year to attend a Catholic school in the Archdiocese of Denver, Colorado. 

As a proud grandmother of two ACE graduates, I have watched as the men and women of Seeds of Hope work tirelessly to raise money for this cause, and I thought there had to be something people of my age (50-80) could do.  What we have is time to donate.  With the help of the director of Seeds of Hope at that time, and our own St. Thomas More Parish, the idea of volunteering in these Catholic schools had its beginnings.

Twelve ladies from St. Thomas More visited St. Rose of Lima and St. Francis de Sales schools. We decided in one afternoon to send six of our group to St. Rose of Lima and six to St. Francis de Sales the following week as volunteers. Ambassadors of Hope was born!

Today, we have approximately 100 volunteers in seven of our area’s twelve inner-city and underprivileged schools!

We started with the idea that we would do anything the schools needed, and we have not wavered from this commitment.  Today we are librarians, teachers’ aides, math and reading tutors, office helpers, and anything else these schools need that we can provide!  Jeanne Courchene, who was principal at St. Rose of Lima when the Ambassadors began, says, The Ambassadors of Hope are loving and caring and willing to do whatever is needed. They gave extra help to struggling students, graded papers, read to students, and in general became "Grandmas" in the classrooms.  The children loved the volunteers and were loved in return.  It's hard to say who benefited the most–the students or the volunteers. The program was a smashing success, and it didn't stop with classroom aides. These savvy volunteers saw other needs in each school and stepped up to solve them. St. Rose of Lima's beautiful library is the direct result of this program.”

We are there to serve and in “no way to be served.”   We have gained much! Of the original twelve volunteers, ten are still volunteering, while the other two have stopped only due to health constraints.  As Lee Murphy, one of the original twelve volunteers said, “I understand that the schools feel we are helping them, but no one can express how much these children, teachers and principals have done for us.  It is a wonderful feeling to know in our later years we still have something to give, which is our time and love to these dear children.”

Ambassadors of Hope costs nothing to join, for either the volunteers or the schools.  It is a win-win proposition!  We love the children and they love us, and we feel like we are doing something worthwhile in our later years for future generations. The only requirements needed are the love of the mission of Catholic schools and time. We are inspired and feel called to serve by the Gospel of Matthew 19:14:  “Let the children come to me, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Seeds of Hope has estimated that our Ambassadors have provided over $250,000 of volunteer hours to these schools annually.  What these schools have provided to us in return is priceless! Find some volunteers, contact your local Catholic school, and Ambassadors of Hope can be serving your schools too!

Gillian Hanzlik (ACE 18) is currently a kindergarten teacher at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Academy in Denver. “The ambassadors are the perfect expression of St. Therese's 'small things with great love,'" she commented. "These volunteers are here to do anything we need, with the greatest love in their hearts for our children. Each ambassador is a blessing to our school.”

Photo: Educators Gillian Hanzlik (ACE 18) and Meghan Hanzlik (ACE 13) are granddaughters of Joanne Horne, our University of Notre Dame Sorin Award for Service to Catholic Schools winner. Horne is seen holding the award, in front of Father Lou DelFra, director for spiritual life in ACE.

Service: The Power to Enhance the Lives of Others

on Thursday, 06 December 2012.

"From being an adult leader on Arbishop Carroll's first Kairos retreat to helping with the incredible food drive we put on, I have seen firsthand how these experiences help form our students. Students learn how to reach outside of themselves and gain an understanding of how their actions have the power to enhance the lives of others."

The math teacher got down to business at Archbishop Carroll High School, focusing not on her own sense of comfort but on her students' ability to succeed and to serve. Alyssa Bellinder, former track star from Kansas State University, chose displacement from her undergraduate experience to teach and to support young minds in her classroom in Washington, D.C.

"I believe in my students," Alyssa continues. "I tell them, 'I believe you can succeed. But the choice is up to you.' My goal is to provide them with an experience in which they can watch hard work and determination pay off with success. Students need to see the critical role that their effort plays in their accomplishments now and in the future."

Since graduating from ACE in 2013, Alyssa has continued teaching in Catholic schools, and is now teaching Geometry and Honors Geometry at Bishop Machebeuf High School in Denver, CO. She continues her commitment to service in her classroom.

"I've always wanted to be a teacher," she explains. "I have discovered that my life is not about me. It is about God and how I can serve him through my work as a teacher."

To read about Alyssa's community in Washington, DC, click here. To learn more about ACE Teaching Fellows, click here.

Catholic School Champion: Dr. Rachel Moreno

on Friday, 05 October 2012.

After being chosen as Arizona's Teacher of the Year, Hands Across the Border Teacher of the Year, and one of four finalists for National Teacher of the Year, Rachel Moreno wanted to contribute her expertise to the next generation of teachers. So the 27-year veteran of public schools earned a doctorate in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University and then fulfilled her lifelong dream of teaching in a Catholic school, taking a position at Kings College. After 3 years, she joined the faculty of supervision and instruction for ACE Teaching Fellows.  Dr. Moreno also teaches for ACE's English as a New Language program.

We asked Dr. Moreno, who lives in Tucson and works with ACE teachers in Notre Dame ACE Academies and elsewhere, to share some of her favorite examples of hope.

Hope surrounds all of the Notre Dame ACE Academies as they continue to be a "flagship" for the diocese of Tucson. I saw hope [when a gifted ACE graduate moved to Tucson] to work especially at an Notre Dame ACE Academies. I see hope when [two gifted ACE teachers] decide to embark on the journey to become administrators. [Another Notre Dame ACE Academies teacher] demonstrates hope each time he directs and produces one of his outstanding and kid-friendly plays at Santa Cruz, where he has taught for 12 years. [Still another Notre Dame ACE Academies teacher] had three job offers in big cities all over the country yet chose to remain here. And because she is so committed to promoting literacy she specifically requested to teach 1st grade. (If that isn't a story of hope, I don't know what is!) Finally, [Notre Dame ACE Academies teachers] give their students hope each time they remind them that they are not only preparing for heaven but for college.

Mi esperanza existe todos los dias de mi vida (hope is present every day of my life). Why? Because everyone I work with is fully committed to making God known, loved and served.

Catholic School Champion: Stephen LaBrecque

on Wednesday, 29 August 2012.

StephenLSpotlightStephen LaBrecque (ACE 19) captures the spirit of ACE Teaching Fellows when he says, "I want to give back and help students, not just academically, but also spiritually, emotionally, and athletically." We asked him a few questions as he was preparing to start his first year of community life and teaching in Dallas, Texas.

Tell us a little bit about your background.

I just graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a bachelor's degree in English. Prior to ACE, my experiences in education have been varied. I taught religious education throughout high school, and I tutored at the Robinson Community Learning Center while at Notre Dame. I also did an Appalachia Service Seminar at a small high school in David, Kentucky.  This year I will be teaching English at Bishop Dunne Catholic High School in Dallas.

What drew you to Catholic education?

When I made the decision to transfer to Notre Dame, I was drawn by the University's mission to educate the mind, body and spirit. This focus on the whole person played a large role in my decision to join ACE and teach in Catholic Schools. I want to give back and help students, not just academically, but also spiritually, emotionally and athletically.

How have your first months in ACE shaped your vision of education?

My [early] experiences in ACE have helped to refocus my view of education. Too often we, as educators, get caught up grouping students by test scores and grade levels and demographics. ACE has shown me that we must get back to the human elements of education. We cannot forget that we are dealing with students, parents, and local communities. As teachers we must remember that first and foremost we are serving people.

Below, Stephen is pictured with the members of his ACE community (L to R): Gregg Schettini, Maria Isabel Eugenio, Stephen, Blair Carlin, Keaton Van Beveren, and Nick Reed.


Catholic School Champion: G. Michael Pressley

on Saturday, 02 June 2012.

pressley awardA prodigious and world-renowned scholar, Dr. Pressley served as the inaugural academic director of ACE's ACE Teaching Fellows (STT) program. In May 2006, he lost a hard-fought battle with cancer.

Dr. Pressley's legacy in the academic world is replete with evidence from his research, writing, mentorship of graduate and undergraduate students, contributions to state and national education policy, and service to the profession in the areas of literacy and educational psychology. He was a member of the Notre Dame psychology faculty from 1997 to 2001 and, while serving ACE, was also Notre Dame Professor of Catholic Education.

Michael Pressley was one of the most cited scholars in the field of social science and education. He belonged to the distinguished few who were among the 1 percent cited in research literature. He was well-known for his work on balanced literacy instruction, reading strategies for comprehension and text analysis. He was renowned for his senior authorship of the k–6 basal literacy program, Open Court, now known as McGraw-Hill/SRA Open Court, a series that has had a direct impact on millions of children.

Dr. Pressley was honored with several prestigious career awards during his career. He published more than 350 articles and book chapters, and authored or edited more than 25 books on literacy, psychology and education. His contributions to individuals, programs, universities and the education profession are numerous; the value of his role as a key architect of ACE STT's academic program cannot be overstated.

Soon the 2012 recipients of the Michael Pressley Awards for Academic Excellence and Promising Scholar in the Education Field will be announced. To read about last year's recipients, click here.

Citation:Michigan State University School of Education

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