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ND graduates participate in ACE program

Honora Kenney | Friday, November 14, 2008

Acting on the University’s core values of faith, service and education, some recent graduates are choosing to postpone their job search in order to participate in Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program.

Brendan Ryan, who graduated from Notre Dame last year with an engineering degree, is currently teaching Algebra I and Geometry at Holy Family Cristo Rey High School in Birmingham, Ala.

“I have been fortunate to go to Catholic schools my whole life,” Ryan said. “When I got to college, I finally understood what a huge blessing and opportunity these schools have been in my life.

Ryan said his parents served as his example when deciding to participate in ACE.

“I know my parents made huge sacrifices to put everyone in my family through Catholic schools, so I felt that this was an opportunity for me to give this chance to someone else,” he said.

Ryan’s twin brother, Brogan, is also part of the program. Despite a degree in accounting and a job offer from a Big Four firm, he chose to teach math and religion to 7th and 8th graders at St. Jude Educational Institute in Montgomery, Ala.

“I had always thought about doing a year or two of service after graduation to work on integrating service into my life after college,” he said. “I looked at several of the programs that recruit at Notre Dame but was drawn to ACE because of how well it integrates the service, spirituality, community and work aspects of the program.”

Brogan Ryan said ACE’s selling point was the fact that it is a faith-based program.

“ACE separates itself from other programs because it emphasizes not only service and spirituality, but also professional development and community life,” Ryan said.

Members of the ACE program teach in under-resourced Catholic schools for two years while living with other ACE program teachers in community and growing spiritually. During the summer, the teachers study education at Notre Dame, and typically earn a Masters degree in education after their two-year tenure.

Like the Ryans, Saderia Nicole Hooks also graduated in 2008. Now teaching at St. Pius V in Jacksonville, Florida, she said the spiritual and communal values fostered by the program served as her motivation to teach.

Hooks said she thought it “would be a great way to begin a career in education … ACE not only offered me the opportunity to teach, but also to earn a Master’s Degree in education simultaneously.”