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AT&T gives scholarship to ACE

Christian Myers | Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Beatles famously urged Jo Jo to “get back” to Tucson; but a Notre Dame-based program recently urged AT&T to instead “give back” to the Arizona city.

AT&T gave $800,000 to the creation of scholarships allowing impoverished students to attend three Tucson schools supported by the Notre Dame Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) Academy (NDAA), under an Arizona tax credit program.

Christian Dallavis, director of NDAA, said the contribution will create more than 300 scholarships for students to attend the three NDAA schools in Tucson: St. Ambrose, St. John the Evangelist and Santa Cruz.

The NDAA program has been working to raise awareness of Arizona’s corporate tax credit scholarship program and has been in contact with many different companies, Dallavis said.

Arizona law allows companies to contribute their entire state tax liability to scholarships for Arizona students, and the companies who participate receive a 100% tax credit on Arizona state taxes.

“It does so much for kids and it doesn’t cost them a penny,” he said.

AT&T staff, also including some Notre Dame alumni, helped convince AT&T to make their contribution to NDAA scholarships, Dallavis said.

William Schmitt, Communications and Media Specialist with ACE, said NDAA is a comprehensive school-support program operatingunder the direction of ACE, a Notre Dame-based organization that has served Catholic schools nationwide since 1994.

NDAA partners with individual Catholic schools to help with everything from administrative to classroom support, Dallavis said.

The goal of the NDAA program is to extend “extraordinary” Catholic education to as many kids as possible, Dallavis said.

“Our ultimate goal is what we put on our t-shirts and display on a banner in each school. It is ‘Our goals: college and heaven’,” he said.

Currently, NDAA works exclusively with the three Tucson schools, but the program already plans to add two more schools in Tampa Bay, Florida in the fall. Dallavis said the intention is to continue expanding the program nationwide, while remaining involved in all NDAA schools.

“Our involvement in Tucson may decrease as their need decreases. We would then be less involved there and focus our attention on other schools, but the Tucson schools will remain NDAA schools,” he said. “We hope to create a nationwide network of high-performing Catholic schools serving low-income communities.”

Dallavis said he recently brought the principals from the three Tucson schools to Milwaukee, where they observed several model Catholic schools.

All three of the schools saw significant improvement in the first year of NDAA’s involvement, which began in 2010, Dallavis said.

“We’ve worked very closely with teachers and principals to

help improve instruction and the materials they have to teach with,” he said. “In the first year, across all three schools, students gained as much as a month of two months in every content area. Teachers are closing the achievement gap their students are facing.”

The NDAA intends to maintain its focus on students in the range from pre-school to eighth grade because there are already many strong Catholic high schools nationwide, Dallavis said.

“We are preparing kids from age three to eighth grade to be ready for a college preparatory high school,” he said. “When they come attend our schools, they are significantly more likely to graduate high school and go to college.”

Dallavis said much of a student’s attitude toward education and academic ability is determined early on.

“Students tend to be either on their way to college or not by the time they reach high school,” Dallavis said.

Dallavis said NDAA appreciates AT&T’s contribution and what allows the organization to accomplish. However, he said there are still more students in need who NDAA hopes to be able to help in the future.

“We hope this will be a long term partnership and that other companies will begin to make use of the Arizona tax credit program,” Dallavis said. “Even with this contribution, there are more kids who need a scholarship to attend our schools, the need is lessened, but it still remains.”

Contact Christian Myers at cmyers8@nd.edu