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Notre Dame’s ACE program encourages service to Catholic education

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Mr. Hawk

Mr. Hawk

Mr. Hawk

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As part of Impact Service Week, two Mount Carmel teachers addressed groups of juniors about their own experiences of volunteer service as college graduates.

Prior to joining the faculty at Mount Carmel, both Mrs. Jennifer Smola and Mr. Matthew Hawk participated in a Notre Dame program called the “Alliance for Catholic Education,” or ACE.

ACE is a two-year, post-graduate program that prepares teachers to serve in Catholic schools. According to the ACE website, “The academic program provides professional preparation that will enable participants to make a deep and profound difference in the lives of the children while they serve.” {https://ace.nd.edu}

Participants spend three summers taking classes on the South Bend campus, surrounding two years of volunteer teaching in Catholic schools in underprivileged areas of the country.  Along the way, participants earn a master’s degree in teaching.

The ACE program targets Catholic schools which lack funding.  According to its website, Since the program’s launch in 1993, its graduates have served in one out of every four Catholic schools in the country, in 70% of U.S. dioceses, and have impacted the lives of over 180,000 children.

During his two year volunteer experience with ACE, Hawk, who currently serves in Mount Carmel’s Enrollment Office and teaches freshman English, served at St. John High School in Plaquemine, Louisiana.

Hawk has always enjoyed school, which is a big reason why he was drawn to ACE. “I always enjoyed learning and wanted other people to get excited about learning. I think it is important to think, write, and speak clearly, and teaching English helps a person do all these things.”

Faith also is a big factor in Hawk’s life. He has been involved with a Catholic school education for his entire life, except for one year when he taught at Perspective Charter School in Chicago. While teaching at Perspective, Hawk missed the opportunity to teach Catholic values and to have open-ended discussions with students, opportunities that are “readily available at a Catholic school.”

Smola also values the integration of faith into her classes as a math teacher, as is evident in the familiar ND admonition “Pray like a Champion” that can be seen in a poster over her desk.

Reflecting on her two years of service at All Saints School in Fort Worth, Texas, Smola credits the ACE program with allowing her to discover the value of teaching in a Catholic school and developing the zeal she needs on a daily basis. “Without it (faith) I don’t think I would have the energy to (teach).”

In their presentations to the juniors, both Hawk and Smola stressed the importance of serving those who may lack what most people take for granted.  Whether through a post-graduate experience such as the ACE program, or in more ordinary experiences, each of us has an opportunity to be of service to those less fortunate every day.

(Jack Lockard contributed to this article) 

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Notre Dame’s ACE program encourages service to Catholic education