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ACE hosts First Lady as Catholic school

Becky Hogan | Tuesday, February 5, 2008

First lady Laura Bush visited a Washington, D.C., elementary school partnered with the Notre Dame-affiliated Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) on Wednesday.

Her visit to Holy Redeemer School took place during Catholic Schools Week, an annual celebration of Catholic schools and their contributions to their communities and the nation.

The ACE Magnificat Initiative has given Holy Redeemer School support and resources since it was nearly shut down two years ago, ACE Director for Education Outreach Aaron Wall said.

The Magnificat Initiative partners the University and ACE with a Catholic school that is in danger of being closed down and gives schools the tools and resources to continue educating students, Wall said. These include training, marketing and finance expertise and funding. The partnership also makes ACE teachers and principles available to schools.

Wall said the first lady’s visit was an indication of ACE’s success in Catholic schools nationwide.

“Coming from an educator herself, it is great to [have Laura Bush] garner national attention for the ACE program,” he said. “It gives us that recognition I feel we deserve that we are a forward-thinking group of educators. It is great to be recognized by her… and it gives us a lot of validation to keep working in the future.”

The school’s current teaching staff includes ACE teacher Maggie Schroeder, who teaches second grade and is in her second year of the ACE program, and Notre Dame graduate Molly Walsh. The school’s principal, Ben Ketcham, is also a Notre Dame alumnus and ACE graduate.

Holy Redeemer School is in its first year of the five-year Magnificat program.

“It’s only been five to six months that we’ve been involved,” Wall said. “This was a school that was ready to close its doors, and it has made incredible improvements. Holy Redeemer still has a long way to go, but relative to what it was last year, it is excelling.”

Wall said the most meaningful aspect of Bush’s visit is its importance to the students.

“The largest impact is on the students at Holy Redeemer, that someone like Mrs. Bush will take time out of their day [to visit them],” Wall said. “The first lady offered to come, being that the school was in her backyard. It was beautiful that she took her time.”

ACE ended the Catholic Schools Week festivities with a celebration at Holy Redeemer School on Thursday evening to celebrate the school’s success under the Magnificat Initiative.

Wall said several ACE graduates and Notre Dame alumni participated in the week’s events.

Holy Redeemer School is one of three Magnificat schools nationwide. The other two are St. Adalbert in South Bend and St. Anne in Chicago, which both started the program In 2006.

The first lady’s visit also coincided with President Bush’s State of the Union proposal to offer $300 million in Pell Grants for Kids to aid to low-income students. The president also proposed the White House Summit on Inner-City Children, which Bush said will unite educators, business leaders and philanthropists to raise awareness about private schools.

“[The proposal] can only stand to impact us positively…and to give more students an opportunity to be enrolled in K-12 education,” Wall said. “It’s very exciting for us knowing that attention is going to be put on Catholic education. It would give us an opportunity to share the spotlight and share with others the good work that we are doing.”

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings visited another ACE school, St. Peter Claver Catholic Central School in New Orleans.

Spellings called the school a positive example of the work Catholic schools have done in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina.