ACE helps black students reach next grade, University

by Maggie Hessel-Mial

Summer school usually strikes fear into the minds of middle and high school students. This summer, however, close to 200 students at Edison High School in Minneapolis are learning more than they’ve ever learned before – and having fun in the process.

A Commitment to Excellence, a summer academic enrichment program with an emphasis on sports, is host to black boys in grades six through 12. Participants can get involved free of charge and partake in math, reading and life studies.

The style is casual but focused. Many
students are given the attention they might not receive in overcrowded public schools.

“I like the discipline here,” said ninth-grader Roderick Coleman. “Instead of giving up on us, they give us a chance.”

General College Dean David Taylor and ACE program director Ken Foxworth found statistics showing black male enrollment at the University is dropping. Together they wanted to start a program to stop this trend.

“The idea is to encourage these kids to get to the University level,” Foxworth said. “We want them to be excellent students so they can give back to the community.”

Taylor went to great lengths to get the program off the ground, according to Foxworth.

“Dean Taylor gave us the chance to open the door for African-American boys,” he said.

The program was discontinued last fall due to a lack of funding.

“Parents called the Minneapolis Public School District to express that it should come back,” Foxworth said. “The district saw that it was a good program and found the money to get it back.”

The money was allocated from the state to provide for the district’s remedial educational programs, such as ACE.

Now that ACE is up and running again, students spend 55-minute sessions on a variety of subjects with teachers from area colleges. One of them is University student Delphanie Daniels.

“I was involved in the program last fall,” she said. “When I found out that it was going to be a summer program this year, I wanted to get involved.”

With smaller groups of kids to work with, instructors can get to know the children and be better role models for them, Foxworth said.

A part of the day is focused on building life skills. Team-building exercises help the students to trust each other, Foxworth said.

Letting the students know they are cared for is a key aspect of the program.

“It’s important to push these kids,” said Paul Nixon, ACE coach and member of the Gophers football team. “These kids need the extra attention to push them to become better and to use their minds.”

Each student involved with ACE learns the affirmation pledge, which includes phrases such as “I have the opportunity to walk on the path of success; I have elders who care about me; Listen, learn, show respect, succeed.”

While the kids are having fun learning, their test scores also seem to be improving, Foxworth said. The combination of academics and athletics is helping them pass basic skills tests necessary to move onto the next grade level while still enjoying summer.

“I’ve already told my mom that I want to come back,” Coleman said. “I like it.”


Maggie Hessel-Mial welcomes comments at [email protected]