The Donna Independent School District has successfully brought back a program designed to help at-risk students succeed in high school, college and beyond.
The After School Centers on Education (ACE) was made possible through grant money from the United States Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. Director Raul Torres said the district was able to secure funding to support this project for the first time in several years. The funding took effect this academic year with a budget of $965,000 and will continue through the end of 2019.
Torres was grateful for the financial support especially because the competition is fierce he said. In past years, he said the grants were going to Texas school district’s outside the Rio Grande Valley. “We are appreciative of the current board members for supporting ACE by accepting and approving this grant that benefits families and student success,” Torres said.
ACE funding allows the DISD to pay for instructional supplies, a director, secretary, family engagement specialist, 10 full-time coordinators, and 40 part-time employees. They help serve the needs of 1,200 students in seven elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school. Their role as professionals is to provide academic enrichment activities after school for children, particularly students who are economically disadvantaged. These opportunities include tutorials and assistance with homework; training that helps families support their students to be successful in the classroom; events for students to explore science, technology and the arts; and guidance and field trips that help students and their families access information about college careers.
Torres said the overall goal of the program is to help students improve their academics, attendance and behavior which leads to grade level promotion, graduation and eventually being prepared for college and the workplace. “Parents tell us they see a positive impact on these areas when we speak with them at Family Engagement Seminars,” Torres said.
The data collected by ACE shows that the majority of the parents with students in the program feel ACE has made a big difference in their overall child’s performance in school.
“My son has been so motivated and excited about the program that he reads more every day at home,” the parent said. “He showed improvement from testing at tier 3 to tier 2. Now, his brother and sister want to join.”
The mother of two children in the program said she’s seen a positive change about how they feel doing homework. “Before they would not do their homework at home. With the program, the homework is now complete,” the parent said. “They even want to attend the program on the weekends.”
Lilia Ramirez, ACE Family Engagement Specialist, noticed the enthusiasm in one mother. “Mom wanted a copy of the power point from one of the presenters to share with her children,” Ramirez said. “She said she wants to do her part in developing her own positive behavior because she has seen how ACE has helped her child be more positive and more responsible.”
For more information about the program contact 956-464-1771 or visit the district’s website at www.donnaisd.net under departments, 21st Century.