ACES Program Helping Students Navigate the Path to College (PHOTOS)

ACES 6For Oscar Rivera, 20, going to college was an “expensive” idea.

He attended Rockville High School and then joined ACES- Achievement Collegiate Excellence and Sucess program designed to assist thousands of at-risk youth who are underrepresented in college. Rivera will graduate from Montgomery College in 2016.

Rivera will graduate from Montgomery College in 2016.

On June 16, educators, county officials, and relatives celebrated these students’ hard work, dedication, and achievements at Strathmore in Bethesda. U.S. Treasurer Rosie Rios was the keynote speaker at the event.

“I wouldn’t be at Montgomery College if it weren’t for ACES [be]cause I had not interested whatsoever when I saw the price of tuition. … We get a personal counselor that sticks with us until we are in Montgomery College, and if we transfer to the Universities of Shady Grove they stay with us and they help us out,” Rivera said.

ACES, launched in 2013, is a collaboration is between Montgomery County Public Schools, Montgomery College (MC) and the Universities at Shady Grove (USG). Funding comes from county and private donations. College officials said MC’s advancement staff raised more than $1.5 million dollars to support this program in 2015.

“We’ve got ACES students that just entered the program. We’ve got ACES students that are finishing the program. These ACES students deserve a celebration for what they’ve been through and coming to this program,” said William Schlossenberg, senior director of development at the Universities at Shady Grove.

Currently, there are more than 2,000 ACES students from all three organizations.

“Many of these students are students who never thought about going to college and the families never talked to them about there as well …  I’d like to think we are not giving a hand out we’re giving a hand up,” said DeRionne Pollard, Montgomery College President.

According to Montgomery College officials, the program is free and serves African Americans, Latino, low-income students, and those first to attend college in their family. The program begins with students on ninth-grade and provides coaches to help them keep track on college enrollment, completion and career opportunities. Today, there are ten public schools participating and others will be added in the future.

“We get a personal counselor that sticks with us until we are in Montgomery College, and if we transfer to the Universities of Shady Grove they stay with us and they help us out,” Rivera said.

Rivera’s major is Astronomy, and he already met with NASA officials for an information interview. He said he did not waste any time, and asked lots of questions.

“My plan is to transfer to University of Maryland and from there trying to get connected to NASA again,” Rivera said.

Renay Johnson, principal at Montgomery Blair High School, said ACES program has benefited many first generation college students at Blair.

“Students who would have maybe a college plan, but ACES not only made sure they have a college plan but the financial means to go to college, and they have the education to know once they get there what do they need to do,” Johnson said.

 

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Aline Barros

About Aline Barros

Aline Barros is a multimedia reporter and community engagement specialist with Montgomery Community Media. She can be reached at Abarros@mymcmedia.org and on Twitter at @AlineBarros2.

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