ACE event salutes two South Bend school leaders

by Bill Schmitt

Maritza Robles receives the Notre Dame Champion for Education Award Maritza Robles receives the Notre Dame Champion for Education Award

After a 30,000-mile, seven-month string of visits to Catholic schools around the country, the University’s ACE Bus returned to campus Monday, June 9, and drove up to the Main Building for an event presenting awards to two champions of local public schools.

Rev. Timothy Scully, C.S.C., who founded the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) 20 years ago, bounded from the bus, greeted by more than 200 current ACE teachers and members of the campus community while the Notre Dame Fight Song rang out across the quad.

As part of the homecoming celebration, Father Scully presented Notre Dame Champion for Education Awards to Maritza Robles, retired director of the bilingual services department of the South Bend Community School Corp., and Jay Caponigro, a member of the campus administration who also serves as vice president of the board of the SBCSC. Robles continues to serve on that panel as an at-large member, as well.

Father Scully said Robles, who served South Bend schools as an educator and administrator for 30 years before her 2012 retirement, has been “a pillar of our community in education.”

Jay Caponigro receives the Notre Dame Champion for Education Award Jay Caponigro receives the Notre Dame Champion for Education Award

Robles, in remarks aimed largely at the audience of young ACE teachers preparing for the classroom this summer, encouraged their dedication to public service and dubbed education “a calling.” She said they will be rewarded because “you’ll be remembered by a lot of people” who will express appreciation years later.

Caponigro, after receiving his Champion for Education Award, encouraged the next generation of teachers to look at the talents of their students and “also look at all those in the community who want to help you make your students achieve to their fullest capacities — whether those are parish staff or business leaders or folks from nonprofits.”

Father Scully also presented a Notre Dame Sorin Award for Service to Catholic Schools to Brian and Jeannelle Brady of Elkhart, Indiana, who generously donated the bus that was used for the National Bus Tour.

Brian (’74), an Irish Angel, serves on the College of Arts and Letters Advisory Council and Gigot Advisory Board. Jeannelle, a graduate of Saint Mary’s College (’74), is a member of the Performing Arts Advisory Council. Together, they have three sons, all graduates of Notre Dame: Coley (’00), Terry (’01, ’02 MSA) and Ryan (’05).

Notre Dame’s message along the way has consistently affirmed a dedication, through research and service, to provide the opportunity for all children to receive a quality education.

Teaching is “immensely important” in kids’ lives, Brian Brady said, encouraging the ACE participants in their career goals. “I would like to see every child have the same opportunity my grandchildren have.”