January 27, 2017

2017 Catholic Schools Week Supplement

Family gets winning hand through Notre Dame ACE program

The goals of the Notre Dame ACE Academies in Indianapolis are two-fold: college and heaven. (Submitted photo)

The goals of the Notre Dame ACE Academies in Indianapolis are two-fold: college and heaven. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

Three years removed from the heartbreak of being homeless with six children, Kevina White shares 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 Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program 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 on 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 family is one of many who are benefitting from the start of a new era in the archdiocese in which the Notre Dame ACE Academies are continuing the Mother Theodore Catholic Academies’ legacy of providing a Catholic education to children in Central Catholic, Holy Angels, Holy Cross, 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.

Research data confirms the importance of Catholic schools in the lives of its students and alumni, noted Holy Cross Father Timothy Scully, co-founder of the ACE program.

“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.”

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 now has a job. “I just praise God that we’re able to do that at this time.”

(To learn more about the Notre Dame ACE Academies, visit: ace.nd.edu/academies.)

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