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Alumna serves through Alliance for Catholic Ed.

Nora Kenney | Monday, November 21, 2011

When 2011 Notre Dame graduate Vickey McBride interned with the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program during her senior year at Notre Dame, her job was to educate prospective teachers about the program and recruit applicants.

Now, McBride lives the life she only talked about as an intern, teaching ninth-grade students in Brownsville, TX, at St. Joseph Academy, a preparatory school close to the Mexican border.

The transition between studying history at Notre Dame and teaching social studies in a predominantly Latino high school was a significant one, McBride said.

“The individual students are the most inspirational part of it,” McBride said. “When I’m having a really bad day and don’t want to go to school and I’m dreading the first bell ringing, all it takes is for that one student to walk in the door.”

When McBride began her internship in the ACE office during her senior year, she automatically received a place in the competitive teaching program for her first two years after graduation.

Now that she has begun her program, these students motivate McBride to give as much of her energy as possible to her work in the ACE program, she said.

“Seeing their faces and in there seats, looking up at me and expecting something from me, it puts me in the zone,” she said. “I feel very much called to do the best that I can. It’s hard to slack off when you know that you 140 people [are] staring up at you asking for knowledge.”

McBride said she was not sure what to expect from her high school students.

“I figured, I’m in high school,” McBride said. “They’re going to be so mature. Not so much the case. They’re just so goofy and so awkward sometimes. They’re just a lot goofier than I expected, which in a way is great because they’re not jaded, as you might think high school kids will be.”

Some of the students at McBride’s school take a bus across the U.S.-Mexico border to get to school each morning, McBride said. In her predominantly Latino high school, McBride said the majority of her students are completely bilingual.

She added that she embraced the chance to improve her Spanish skills, while also eating a lot of Mexican food.

“Oh my gosh, [Mexican food is] the best,” she said. “You have no idea until you come here and try it.”

Food is also an important part of the house where McBride lives with seven other ACE participants, she said. Five of her housemates are also Notre Dame alumni.

“We have a ton of fun,” McBride said. “It’s the best part of being in ACE for me. Everybody is so committed to being there for each other and spending time with each other.”

The group gathers for a “family” meal three nights a week, she said.

“Last Tuesday we made chili and cornbread,” she said. “I’m not that great of a cook, but the girl I cook with is great.”

The close relationships developed in the ACE house reflect the organization’s commitment to community, McBride said.

“We really are a family,” McBride said. “That’s not just an exaggeration or a cute little Notre Dame story. We’re all different people who ran in different circles at Notre Dame, but everyone in the house is really committed to making the experience not just bearable, but memorable.”