First lady pays special visit to ACE school

Author: Julie Hail Flory

First lady Laura Bush probably feltright at home as head of the class at Holy Redeemer School in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday (Jan. 30). Herself a former teacher and school librarian in three Texas school districts, she seemed pleased to return to her roots when she addressed the assembly of students.

One of the great privileges of my job as first lady of the United States is to visit schools and to meet boys and girls all over our country,she told the children.And its one of the most fun parts of my job – not only fun, but also encouraging, because I can see how great American children are, and how devoted they are to learning and to building good lives for themselves.

Mrs. Bushs visit was partly in observance of Catholic Schools Week, what she called theperfect time to recognize the contributions that Catholic schools make to students all across our country.

Through the University of Notre Dames Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program, Holy Redeemer is one of three designated Magnificat Schools nationwide, which are paired with the University in five-year partnerships that seek to effect change in urban, at-risk Catholic schools.

Established in 2006, the Magnificat School Partnership Program provides designated schools with funding, leadership and expertise – via Notre Dames extensive alumni network – and makes ACE teachers and principals available to meet staffing needs. In addition to Holy Redeemer, the other Magnificat Schools are St. Adalbert in South Bend and St. Ann in Chicago.

Just last year, financial shortages had placed Holy Redeemer on a list of imminent school closings,Mrs. Bush said.But through the Magnificat programs partnership with Notre Dame, over the next five years, the University will work with Holy Redeemer faculty, staff and students to improve the school. Notre Dame is providing technology, textbooks and supplies. The University will help Holy Redeemer improve its financial planning and increase its parental involvement.

Holy Redeemers current teaching and administrative staff includes a number of current ACE students and graduates of the program, including its principal, Ben Ketchum, a 1997 Notre Dame alumnus.

Founded in 1994 by Rev. Timothy R. Scully, C.S.C., who was in attendance at Mrs. Bushs visit to Holy Redeemer along with other program leaders, and Rev. Sean McGraw, C.S.C., the ACE program provides college graduates an opportunity to earn master of education degrees while serving as teachers in understaffed Catholic schools nationwide. In exchange for a modest stipend and a tuition-free graduate program, the ACE participants make a two-year commitment to teach in these schools.

More than 85 recent college graduates from a wide variety of educational disciplines enter ACE each year. They take courses and participate in teacher training projects at Notre Dame during their two summers in the program and are assigned to full-time teaching positions at schools in more than 30 cities and 14 states during the academic year. After two years, the students graduate with a masters degree, and about 75 percent elect to remain in education.

In her remarks to the audience at Holy Redeemer, Mrs. Bush was enthusiastic in her praise of ACE teachers.

Not only do Catholic educators develop young minds, but they also prepare children for lives of compassion and service,she said.

It was inspiring to see how much she really, truly does love children and embraces our mission,Father Scully said of the first lady.

Mrs. Bush is actively involved in issues of national and global concern, with a particular emphasis on education, health care and human rights. Among her initiatives in education was a historic trip to Afghanistan in March 2005 to witness firsthand the work of the Womens Teacher Training Institute, which is training women to lead classrooms that girls once were forbidden to enter.

As honorary ambassador for the United Nations Literacy Decade, Mrs. Bush serves as an international spokesperson for efforts to educate people throughout the world, especially women and girls. She hosted the first-ever White House Conference on Global Literacy in 2006 to encourage international cooperation to build free societies through literacy. She also has been involved in teacher recruitment programs such as Teach for America.

In conjunction with President Bushs visit to Notre Dame in May 2001 to deliver the Commencement address and receive an honorary degree, the University established a scholarship in Mrs. Bushs name. The Laura Bush Scholarship is awarded annually to an elementary or secondary school student enrolled in Catholic schools in her home state of Texas that are served by the ACE program. To date, five students have received more than $10,000 in tuition assistance.

During her visit to Holy Redeemer, Mrs. Bush spoke of President Bushs support for 2004s D.C. Choice Incentive Act, which established Washingtons Opportunity Scholarships, an initiative that has helped more than 2,600 children transfer from underperforming public schools to a private or faith-based school of their choice. More than 80 Holy Redeemer students currently are participating in the program.

She also discussed the presidents announcement in this weeks State of the Union address of two new initiatives – the $300 million Pell Grants for Kids program that will offer scholarships to private or out-of-district public schools for low-income students, and the White House Summit on Inner-City Children and Faith-Based Schools, which this spring will unite educators, community leaders, philanthropists and business leaders to raise awareness about private school options for urban students.

The Catholic school tradition is based on the belief that every child is blessed with unique gifts, and every child has unlimited potential – regardless of that childs status or race or even faith,Mrs. Bush said, noting that 27 percent of the students in Washingtons Catholic schools are not Catholic.As the legendary Cardinal Hickey of Washington once explained: ‘We dont educate children because theyre Catholic, but because were Catholic. {FONT-SIZE: 12pt; FONT-FAMILY: ‘Times New Roman’; mso-fareast-font-family: ‘Times New Roman’; mso-ansi-language: EN-US; mso-fareast-language: EN-US; mso-bidi-language: AR-SA}

Also in observance of Catholic Schools Week, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings visited another ACE school, St. Peter Claver Catholic Central School in New Orleans, on Jan. 31 (Thursday). In her remarks, Secretary Spellings called the school “a great example of the type of work Catholic schools have done and continue to do in Louisiana after the hurricanes. America’s Catholic schools are national treasures.”


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