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The Evolution of ACE on WT’s Campus

Kyle Moore, Director of Admissions at West Texas A&M University (WT), is perhaps the largest advocate of ACE we have met thus far in our blog series. And, no, he was not an ACE student nor is he compensated for giving ACE promotional pitches, but he does so on a regular basis and we wanted to figure out why.

Upon meeting Mr. Moore and thanking him for agreeing to talk about ACE with us, he immediately divulges, “No, thank you. I am pleased to talk about ACE and how it has increased in scope as well as quality in regards to the type of students it delivers.”

Flattered to say the least, we push for more insight from Moore.

“Previously,” Moore affirms, “ACE used to be a label if you will, indicating to professors that ACE students may require more one-on-one help, more mentorship. But that is not the case anymore. Professors now ask for and look forward to having ACE students in their classes because they are coming to college more prepared than the average student.”

Moore proceeds further with his compliments of ACE by stating, “In admissions we look forward to hiring ACE graduates. They understand deadlines, they have an incredible work ethic, and they are eloquent and polished.”

And we think Moore sums up “the ACE student” perfectly when he says: “ACE students are already winners. They overcome a lot of barriers to get to college, and that confidence instilled in overcoming those barriers gives them a momentum and progression to continue succeeding in college. ACE students are not students who couldn’t get to college without AAF’s support, they have that drive within them. They are going to college and excelling in college because of the preparation AAF’s support has given them.”

Speaking of preparation, ACE has paid out $436,536.50 to 3,963 students at Palo Duro and Caprock to help them attain 19,370 hours of dual credit before students even enter college. This really emphasizes ACE’s role in not just graduating students from high school but grooming them for postsecondary education as well.

Moore and many others have commented on the shift in ACE’s focus within the last year or two. As the ACE program has grown, so has its ability to produce and expose its students to academic rigor, providing a pool of students with greater academic talent to our local universities. This makes ACE not just a program closing socioeconomic gaps, but altering the cyclical nature of perpetual blame on public schools for college unpreparedness. ACE is instead producing a more dynamic, equipped student. The type of student needed by all universities, and the type of student all public schools would like to produce if they had appropriate funding.

Martin Lopez, Executive Director of Special Programs at WT, works a lot with federal funding and harnessing the talent of postsecondary students through federal TRIO programs like Talent Search, Upward Bound, and McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement. Although not directly responsible for, or always directly in contact with many ACE students, Lopez has accumulated significant interaction with ACE students in his tenure at WT because his federal programs and ACE typically serve a similar demographic: first-generation, underserved and/or minority students.

Lopez states, “The most direct impact I have witnessed ACE having is the diversity refugee ACE students have brought to WT’s campus. The diversity you see on WT’s campus is almost unrecognizable from the demographic present here 20 years ago.”

We asked Lopez to clarify what the core function of TRIO programs were and how they were separate from ACE.

Lopez goes on, “TRIO is basically a Federal program initiated by Lyndon B. Johnson that consists of eight outreach and student services programs designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. So the TRIO students I work with who are also ACE students don’t just got to school at WT or AC, many of them go on to University of Texas or Texas Tech or other larger institutions and have great success there.”

The distinction that ACE eligible students are going to larger universities outside of WT and AC is an important one because there is a perception held by some that ACE students are under applying to more challenging universities because of the financial advantages ACE provides for them to stay local. Hearing from Mr. Lopez that ACE eligible students he works with that are also choosing to reach beyond what is offered to them and are going to other universities is a positive affirmation of what ACE is designed to do. We consider high school completion and a postsecondary education of any kind to be a success, and is something we wish for all of our individuals.

ACE and the key players collaborating with ACE across sectors have taken a demographic of students who were originally viewed as “disadvantaged” and transitioned them and the public’s perception of them to that of “model students,” displaying a truth that has been present all along. ACE students don’t have the cards stacked against them. They have the cards they need to play the game, our chips just help them up their own ante.

Next week we’ll chat with a certain teacher of the year who is fortunate enough to instruct these amazing students. And as we approach graduation, we will get to hear from ACE students and graduates. So make sure to tune in as our series comes to a close!

Until then,