Donna North High School sophomore Roxana Hernandez cannot say enough good things about Donna ISD’s Afterschool Centers on Education (ACE) program. She enjoys all the activities the program offers at DNHS.
“I’ve been in the ACE program since it started in 2016,” Hernandez said. “I don’t have a computer at home so having one available has really helped me.”
Hernandez said the activities are also very engaging. “I’m learning how to communicate and see the deeper side of things,” Hernandez said. “I’m more open-minded now and see other points of view. That’s why I’m interested in psychology when I pursue college. I want to know why things are done, why people do something and why they don’t.”
ACE is a hands-on federal program that helps students and their immediate families by providing a safe, structured, and supervised environment where students receive additional learning opportunities to help them do better in the classroom and outside of school. Donna ISD was able to secure a three-year grant in 2016 from the United States Department of Education to relaunch ACE for the first time in several years. The program was implemented in 10 DISD schools and was coming to a close at the end of this school year. But, thanks to ACE’s success at DISD, additional funding has been approved for the next two years.
“Donna ISD received the great news from the TEA Division of Federal and State Education Policy,” 21st Century Director Raul Torres said. “The funding will continue to support the ACE program in the 10 schools that were originally approved. We will receive $863,300 for 2019-2020 and $820,135 for school year 2020-2021. This is important to Donna ISD so we can continue to help improve students’ academics, behavior, attendance, and college readiness, as well as provide family engagement activities.”
Torres said 1,243 ACE students are enrolled at these 10 schools and 81 percent of them are at-risk. “The students receive homework assistance and participate in reading, writing, math, science, and computerized hands-on activities,” Torres said. “They also participate in enrichment activities such as robotics, arts and crafts, cooking, music, outdoor gardening and sports and recreation. These activities engage students in learning because they’re fun and prepare them to do better in school.”
Hernandez said she was ecstatic to learn that the ACE program was going to continue at Donna ISD. “I was so excited because the program is going to be here through my senior year. I wish it could be permanent because it would help a lot of students especially those who don’t have resources at home.”
The ACE program serves students from 3:30-6:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday for elementary schools and from 4-7 p.m. for secondary schools. “We have been in compliance with all grant requirements during the past two years and look forward to more success in the next two years.”
Torres said the program’s success is made possible thanks to the support of the school district’s Board of Trustees and superintendent. Support from the campuses is also key. “The school principals and staff of these 10 schools have been phenomenal in their continuous support and collaboration with us. They seemed to have embraced this program because ultimately we are here to ensure that our students receive a superior education.”