Community Connections Drive ACE Vision
Why am I passionate about ACE? This question was posed to the entire ACE staff by our newest member, Karlyn Finucane as inspiration for some of our first blog posts. In my opinion, it is a great question to lead off with since each of us can write volumes on the subject, and the question should lead us into many other interesting topics about ACE and concurrent enrollment in general.
If you are at all familiar with ACE, you might expect me to summon our statistics showing the thousands of high school students who participate, the tens of thousands of credit hours they earn and the millions in tuition they collectively save when they transfer credits to colleges throughout the country. Certainly, there are many advantages and benefits of ACE that we continuously discuss with students, parents and school administrators. All of us in ACE take great pride and personal satisfaction in our role and I would be remiss to not eventually discuss our impact in terms of numbers since they are truly staggering. For most of us, the ability to help students in such a way is of course, part of what makes us passionate. We will certainly discuss this in detail in a future blog post, but the greatest source of my passion for ACE stems more from aspects beyond the numbers.
As anyone who has worked within ACE will attest, this job provides exposure to many different sectors of our community. This aspect of the job makes it not only interesting, but gives ACE the opportunity to help develop meaningful relationships and connections that benefit students and the community. Nurturing these connections and relationships and watching them develop is the greatest source of my passion since ultimately, those connections are what result in the best opportunities for students. Over time, ACE’s role has evolved into something more than providing college credit opportunities for students. As wonderful as providing that opportunity is, we also have a role in influencing programmatic and regional improvements in education and the local economy.
One example is the Career Pathways in Biotechnology grant program that was a collaboration between ACE and the Genesee County Economic Development Center. The grant provided funding for lab materials, field trips, teacher training and tuition toward credit bearing biology courses in several local districts. The GCEDC and GCC’s goals were to increase awareness of biotechnology and life sciences opportunities for students with long term hopes to attract biotech and life science companies to Genesee County. ACE continues its relationship with the GCEDC to develop additional opportunities for middle and high school students in the region.
ACE’s College Tech Prep Program, under the leadership of Deb Dunlevy, has successfully collaborated with BOCES, high school and college personnel to develop the Legal, Health and Information Technology Academies. Dozens of students go through these academies annually and earn at least fifteen college credits while gaining real life exposure in their intended career. Our hope is to have new academies developed in different disciplines with help from local districts, agencies and businesses. Tech Prep has also facilitated events such as Tech Wars, Science Fairs, assisted the Genesee County Business Education Alliance with the Math Science and Technology summer camp and partnered with Batavia High School to fund the eventual construction of an educational windmill at GCC.
Although I could list dozens of more examples, I will end with this one that is a little closer to home. I mentioned before that ACE plays a role in positively influencing programmatic and regional improvements in education and the local economy. A recent example of how GCC and ACE has influenced changes in our local education system is our partnerships with some districts to provide transitional courses in the high schools. This fall, a few high schools (we hope that number will grow as we realize some successes) will provide transitional courses in reading, English and math for students who may not be considered “college ready” by the time they leave high school. Many people argue that there is a disconnect between the New York State standards that each high school must concentrate on and what colleges expect from first year students. Not all high school students, even after they have earned their diploma, have mastered what they need to know in order jump into college credit courses. Offering transitional courses will help bridge and fill the gaps by connecting GCC and high school faculty to work on curricula to suit everyone’s needs and expectations. If successful, we will limit the number of students who spend their first year of college (and financial aid) on transitional courses.
When GCC and high school faculty have been brought together in the past, it has proven to be beneficial to both. I look forward to seeing them work together on this transitional course project. Again, it is the connections we make that provide wonderful opportunities for all and help us obtain new and unique perspectives. The sharing of ideas and thoughts about the discipline and teaching strategies often result in a new spark for both teachers that spread into the classroom. Often I hear from college faculty that they learn as much about offering our courses from high school teachers as they have shared.
Every connection and relationship developed provides us with extra incentive to provide more opportunities. The more connections we make, the better our chances are of developing something new, innovative and impactful for our students.