Not Your Typical ACE Summer
It was a Wednesday. At school. Last period.
As the students entering her classroom were commiserating over the news that the NCAA Tournament had just been canceled, Fiona Williams (ACE 26 - Jacksonville) was trying to process an email from Notre Dame that said campus would be closing down for the foreseeable future.
“I just remember that pit in my stomach and thinking, Oh no, ACE Summer is definitely not happening.”
Later when the plans for the summer were solidified and it was determined that the ACE 27 teachers would come to campus for two weeks while ACE 26 would complete all of their classes online, Fiona reached out to one of her best friends since her undergraduate days, Mary Guardino (ACE 26 - Oakland), to lament their cohort’s seemingly lost summer.
“We were sad because we were discussing all of the things we wouldn’t be able to do this summer, but then we simultaneously texted each other, ‘We should reach out to the Pastoral Team!’” Mary said with a laugh. “We knew they were probably already working on the summer plans for us and the incoming group of ACE 27s.”
The next morning, Mary and Fiona reached out and began assembling a core team that included fellows ACE 26 teachers Angela Villamizar (Dallas), Corey Gayheart (Austin), and James Cotumaccio (St. Petersburg) to examine how they wanted the next few months to look and how feasible it would be to make it all happen. They also did a lot of listening to other members of their cohort and tapped into the power of the group to formalize a plan forward. The ACErs focused their efforts on a number of events: baking cookies with Fr. Joe Carey, CSC, the talent show, the ACE Marathon selection, a virtual retreat, and "trashketball", a spinoff of the annual ACEstore basketball tournament.
“In the end, it’s not about any one of us,” said Fiona. “If we were doing all of these things individually, that would still stink. Reaching out to the various people who were invested in the different events, like the talent show or trashketball, really helped to shape our efforts.”
Everyone involved in planning these events has been pleased with the amount of buy-in, camaraderie, and friendly competition they’ve seen carry over into the Zoom links.
“People were definitely excited to be back in the larger ACE community,” Mary said, “so making these happen in some form was an important part of our ACE Summer.”
In a typical ACE Summer, teachers and the ACE Team get to know each other in ways big and small. The ACE Team has tried to fill some of that void by adapting some of their traditional plans, such as turning the annual bowling night into a trivia night, and introducing daily convocations into the schedule. These gatherings blend together programmatic announcements, faith-sharing sessions, and one-on-one conversations with other members of the community.
“One of the things that was lost this summer is when a professor or team member would just sit down at your table in the dining hall, or say hello after Mass,” said Kevin Fitzsimmons, associate program director for ACE Teaching Fellows. “The goal of these 15-minute convocations is to provide an opportunity for brief introductions so that people can reach out and build stronger relationships down the road.”
Everyone involved wishes that this summer looked a lot different, but they’re focusing on making the most of the situation.
“Hopefully no other ACE cohort will have to go through a virtual summer,” Fiona said, “but there’s definitely a unique spirit of community knowing that we’re going through this together.”