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Saint Mary’s senior combines passion and faith through ACE program

| Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Saint Mary’s senior Renee Reyes said the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) has provided her with an unprecedented opportunity to share her faith and pursue her passions by educating future generations of underprivileged children in Catholic schools across the country.

ACE is a fellowship program which recruits and trains students like Reyes to teach in Catholic school districts across the nation upon graduation. The fellowship includes a cost-free Master’s degree from Notre Dame along with training and school placement for teachers. ACE increases the accessibility of a Catholic education in underprivileged areas, develops talent among students and conducts groundbreaking research to transform disadvantaged school communities.

Reyes said she first heard about the ACE fellowship last year while attending band practice at Notre Dame. Upon hearing about ACE, she said, she decided to attend an informational meeting about the program. After attending the meeting and learning more about the program, Reyes said she knew that ACE was the perfect fit for her.

“I went home and completed the application that same night,” she said. “I was sold.”

Reyes is an English literature and writing double major with minors in history, intercultural studies and early childhood education. She also spends her time volunteering at Saint Mary’s Early Childhood Education Center, where she is able to pursue her love for working with children while on campus. Through ACE, she said, she is able to utilize the skills she has learned through her courses at Saint Mary’s and share her gifts with disadvantaged students across the nation.

Before hearing about ACE, Reyes considered Teach For America, a teaching fellowship which places college graduates in underprivileged public schools throughout the United States. Although Teach For America sounded appealing, Reyes said, she wanted an opportunity to spread her faith with others while doing what she loves. When she learned about ACE, she said she knew it provided an unparalleled opportunity to deepen her faith and pursue a career she is passionate about.

“ACE is everything I wanted to do wrapped into one package,” she said.

In addition to the teaching fellowship, ACE also selects a number of students to intern for the program while they are still on campus. Reyes is currently one of 14 interns for ACE, and she has the responsibility of recruiting prospective Belles to join the program. While on campus, Reyes is a mentor for ACE, helping interested students discover their passions and discern whether ACE would be a good fit for them.

Reyes saids that Saint Mary’s has equipped her to thrive in the classroom.

“Saint Mary’s has given me everything I’ve ever needed,” she said. “But the main thing is inspiration. Our teachers are so incredible, they care about you as a person, not just as a student … I want my students to feel important and respected like my teachers have done here.”

After graduation, Reyes will begin the process of taking classes at Notre Dame and teaching through the ACE program. Until then, she said she is excited to work as a mentor on campus and spread the word about ACE to other Saint Mary’s women.

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