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ACES Program Hires Coaches for At-Risk Youth

Montgomery College finalized hiring the academic coaches that will help launch a collaborative educational program in the 2013-2014 school year. The Achieving Collegiate Excellence and Success (ACES) program is designed to assist thousands of at-risk youth who are underrepresented in college.

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“The students that we’re really talking about serving are students that are first-generation college students, students that have English as a second language, they may be immigrants to the country, students who have special needs,” ACES Director Karen Callender said.

The collaboration is between Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), Montgomery College  (MC) and the Universities at Shady Grove (USG).

MCPS will identify what students need assistance through an application process and Montgomery College coaches will work with the students to get them college ready. If the student decides to attend Montgomery College and/or Universities at Shady Grove, they will receive support services until they receive their bachelor’s degree. If not, the coach will work to identify a support system at the university the student chooses to attend.

The source for funding varies. MCPS will provide about $330,000, MC will provide about $1 million, and the USG will provide about $80,000 in staff support. This agreement was signed in a memorandum by the three institutions. ACES also received a donation of $10,000 from an anonymous donor from The Community Foundations for Montgomery County.

ACES is one of a few educational programs in the nation, Callender said. Most programs have dual collaborations but having two college institutions is innovative, she added. Over 500 applicants applied to be a coach, but only 10 coaches made the cut.

“Every time you help another young person achieve their goal, it makes a difference in how the world will function. Everybody knows that the young people are the world’s future, but not everybody is willing to commit their time to help them grow,” Callender said.

Each of the coaches have a connection to the success of the program.


Dr. Damien Robinson is an ACES Academic Coach.

Dr. Damien Robinson, an Academic Coach with ACES, says being a part of the collaboration is a personal goal for him.

“Many of these young people look just like me, in fact, I was a first generation, low-income student—just like many of the students we’ll be working with.”

Dr. Robinson, along with the other coaches—Asia Lunn, Kalecia Baity, Dinecia Pierre-Louis, Brad Pabian, Natalie Sanchez, Monica Burgos, Stephanie Mbella, Amani Faress, and Jose Medrano—will be working with 120 juniors and seniors a year.

About 60 students will participate at each grade level in each high school. The 10 MCPS high schools participating include—Montgomery Blair, Albert Einstein, Gaithersburg, John F. Kennedy, Northwood, Rockville, Watkins MillWheaton, Seneca Valley, and Clarksburg.

Callender says now that the coaches have been hired, the students are the last piece of the puzzle that she is currently coordinating to complete.

The application process is still open. To apply to be a part of the program, visit the Achieving Collegiate Excellence and Success program’s website.

Tamika Smith

About Tamika Smith

Tamika Smith is passionate and curious about the world. She often wonders what motivates people to walk in their particular journeys in life. A native of Miami, Florida Smith graduated from Howard University in 2007 and continues to give back through mentorship.


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