November 4, 2016

Event celebrates center-city schools’ anniversary, new Notre Dame ACE Academies

By John Shaughnessy

Three years removed from the heartbreak of being homeless with six children, Kevina White looks into the camera and shares a different story—a story of finding hope and a home for her family.

With a calm joy, White talks about the home she has found for her children at Holy Angels School, one of the five center-city Catholic schools in Indianapolis that became part of the Notre Dame ACE Academies network at the beginning of this school year.

“It’s a family community—and because of that, we’re able to grow together, we look out for each other, and it’s made my life a lot easier being able to know and trust the adults here, and know they really care about my children,” White says as she stands in the school’s playground.

“We’re more stable—spiritually, physically and the children academically. Things that help you to succeed are an education and college and, of course, your faith. That’s what helps you get to heaven. Here at the academies, they do instill that in children—to be believers of Christ, to have faith and to press forward. And that, with education, you can’t get anywhere else.”

White’s heartfelt, video tribute was a highlight of the Notre Dame ACE Academies’ “X-Ttravaganza” in Indianapolis on Oct. 27.

The fundraising event celebrated 10 years of success for the Mother Theodore Catholic Academies (MTCA) in the archdiocese. It also marked the start of a new era this year in which the Notre Dame ACE Academies are continuing the MTCA legacy of providing a Catholic education to children in Central Catholic, Holy Angels, Holy Cross Central, St. Anthony and St. Philip Neri schools.

The archdiocese has partnered with the University of Notre Dame to provide a broader pool of resources and support to serve the children who attend those five schools, according to Gina Fleming, superintendent of Catholic schools in the archdiocese.

During the fundraising event, Fleming moderated a question-and-answer session between Cardinal-designate Joseph W. Tobin and Holy Cross Father Timothy Scully, co-founder of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program.

“We are committed to partnering with you to make these academies a shining light,” Father Scully told the audience of about 350 people. “Indianapolis can be a place where we can prove you can have very deeply Catholic, extraordinarily strong academic and financially sustainable schools for the poor.”

Cardinal-designate Tobin noted, “I can’t think of a better way for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to look out of itself than to support the Notre Dame ACE Academies and to ensure that they flourish—not merely survive but flourish.

“One in a while, someone asks me, ‘Why do you want those schools there if they’re not all Catholic?’ I say, ‘We don’t have those schools because the students are Catholic. We have those schools because we’re Catholic.’ That’s how we do it. We look out of ourselves.”

The data confirms the importance of Catholic schools in the lives of its students and alumni, Father Scully added.

“If you graduated from a Catholic school, you are half again as likely to graduate from a high school, and you’re 2 1/2 times more likely to graduate from college,” he said.

“You hold political views that are more tolerant of other people, and you’re much less likely to go to jail. You’re three times more likely to become a priest or religious. Just from a civic, from a community, and from an ecclesiastical perspective, these schools are essential to our American Catholic life.”

The schools also represent “the secret of Catholic education,” Cardinal-designate Tobin asserted.

“That’s the formation of community,” he declared. “It’s not simply the obvious community that forms between the parents, the students, the faculty and the administrators. There’s also that vibrant community that supports them.

“In areas where there are all sorts of factors in a community that drive it apart, it’s absolutely necessary for the Church to be there with an alternative. The alternative for fragmentation, dissolution and dissipation is the community that forms around a Catholic school.”

In becoming part of the Notre Dame ACE Academies, the five center-city Catholic schools in Indianapolis have joined a network that includes schools in Tucson, Ariz., Tampa, Fla., and Orlando, Fla.

Those schools have already begun to close the achievement gap that many inner-city students experience, Notre Dame ACE officials note. From fall 2011 to spring 2015, on average, students improved in math from the 31st percentile to the 67th percentile, moving from the bottom third to the top third in the nation.

In 2015, the Notre Dame ACE Academies network was recognized by the White House as an outstanding resource of educational excellence for Hispanic students.

The partnership between the archdiocese and Notre Dame follows a similar blueprint for success—drawing from the resources of the university, the archdiocese, the Indiana parental choice program and local community support. ACE faculty and staff also work closely with school and archdiocesan leaders in Indianapolis.

“Our children have the opportunities they deserve to break the cycle of poverty and to share the richness of the gifts with which God has blessed them,” Fleming said. “As I witness the faith, innovation, service and grit of our children, it is obvious to me that there is hope for our world.”

Kevina White has already seen the difference that partnership has made to her family.

“I’m grateful for programs such as this, so families can get the catapult—just something they need to help them get to where they need to be, so we’re able to give back as well,” said White, who has a job and will move her family into a house in the next few months. “I just praise God that we’re able to do that at this time.”

(To learn more about the Notre Dame ACE Academies, visit:


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