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ACE Spectrum

ACE Spectrum


Ace Spectrum is about you — the ACE Learning Centers.
It’s a quick sharing of ideas, inspiration, opinions and best practices among our continuing education organizations.

Please join the conversation.

KALW’s Training Investments Result in Valuable Perspectives During the Coronavirus Crisis

Posted by on Apr 1, 2020 in ACE Learning Center, ACE School Report, Continuing Education | 0 comments

By Ben Trefny, News Director, KALW Audience Supported Public Radio

Our team has been working overtime to cover the coronavirus crisis. Our newsroom — a place that blends professional journalists with trainees — is usually focused on long-form storytelling and podcast production. But in response to the COVID-19 crisis, we have transformed into a breaking news and current events outlet, fully utilizing the skills built by our Audio Academy fellows on a daily basis. They’re producing stories for air at a rapid clip now, putting their education into action.

I want to share some behind-the-scenes insight into the work we’re doing right now to serve our community as an essential information source.

– We are almost exclusively operating from our homes, now. The only person regularly at KALW is the announcer/board operator. The rest of us are using new technology to communicate, record, and broadcast. Our communication is largely being conducted through Slack and Zoom calls. We have had to purchase several software licenses to enable our remote work, and we have also purchased specific equipment to safely record in the field and be able to broadcast live from our homes. You’ll be hearing me live in the mornings over the next several weeks.

– We have significantly increased our on-air, online, and social media production. Our station used to run 2 regional newscasts per day. Now we have 9. We have doubled the number of stories we’re posting at and sharing on various social media platforms. We also have pivoted to covering the virus and response with quick turnaround, breaking news stories, long-form features, a weekly segment called The Quarantine Diaries.

– Our work training community members from underrepresented demographics has proven especially invaluable right now. Within the last week, we produced special COVID-19-focused podcast episodes with producers rarely heard in the media — teenagers on tbh, and incarcerated people on Uncuffed.

– Uncuffed featured the incarcerated producers we work with at San Quentin and Solano State Prisons. They are particularly susceptible to contracting the virus because of overcrowded conditions in state prisons. If the coronavirus gets inside, there could easily be an outbreak. It’s happened before with other viruses. A few days before the prisons went on quarantine, KALW producers (including myself) working with incarcerated people went into the prisons to convene roundtable conversations about their concerns and experiences. The result was a special edition of our podcast Uncuffed which provides first-hand insight into what it’s like to be captive during a pandemic. Check it out here.

– For our podcast tbh, we had been working throughout the past year with more than 120 teenagers, training them on media literacy, teaching them to tell their own stories and those of their generation, and gathering their commentaries and feature stories for the podcast. When students were locked out of schools, we connected with many of the students to get their insights into life learning during, coping with, and finding joy in unexpected places as the coronavirus crisis continues. The result is this episode which provides any listeners with insight into how teenage minds are dealing with this difficult time.

– In addition to us producing extremely important content at a more rapid clip than ever before, our audience has grown during this time. We have unprecedented numbers of clicks on our web posts. Additionally, we have been reaching out to other outlets more frequently to collaborate. Our Uncuffed roundtable was heard by a national audience on the public radio show Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting among other outlets. We gathered sound of teenagers for a live, statewide program as part of NPR‘s California Hub. We will continue to reach out to get Bay Area stories before a broader audience.

While it’s always been our mission to support people in many different communities that are often underserved and underrepresented, that purpose has become even more crystallized now. I’m extremely proud of the work our team is doing to help the public understand and get through this time. And I’m very grateful to all of our supporters, like the people who make our work possible at the Association for Continuing Education.

By the way, here’s a little video I made (with my wife) from our home office.

Be well and keep listening!

Empowered Immigrant Students “Get the Job Done” at San Francisco International High School

Posted by on Feb 20, 2020 in ACE Learning Center, ACE Partners, Continuing Education | 0 comments

By Martha Sessums, President, ACE

Walls. They may keep your dog in your yard and the cattle off the road, but I am amazed at how they spring up between people.

We are sadly in a world that seems to want more walls between people. Leaders exaggerate imaginary harm and build fear, claiming that walls are the only way to maintain the norm in our changing world.

Amidst it all, it’s great to see what the ACE Learning Centers, and the schools they are associated with, are doing to not only tear down walls between people, but to teach us all that walls don’t work in the first place. It’s acting together to help each other that ensures a more solid, successful future for everyone.

San Francisco International High School (SFIHS) is one of those leading organizations that help eliminate the walls for immigrant students and open up paths to success. The Huskies’ (its mascot is a Husky) mission is to “celebrate diversity and empower immigrant students to develop academic, linguistic, socio-economic and cross-cultural skills for success.” But it’s probably best said by Mascot Husky himself with his four principles:

• Act with empathy
• Challenge yourself
• Learn together
• Create change

The SFIHS ACE Learning Center is a small part of the high school’s programs and success, but it acts as a partner for literacy growth and overall support of students as they move through high school and onto college.

The Acceleration – Literacy program combines personal teachers and computer-based programs to not only teach English, but to overcome the struggles of language learning. Through classes and 1-on-1 support, students have increased confidence in participating in classes and reading. Plus, they use the strategies they learned in Literacy for the rest of their curriculum. Double success.

Some students have enormous responsibilities outside of school and finding a balance between these responsibilities and course work can be difficult. The Continuation program creates schedules for these students on timelines that work for each one. Teacher case management and instructional support allows students to work toward earning their diplomas.

One of the great focuses of SFIHS is preparing students for college and supporting them once there. The SPAN program serves new college students with individualized support. That can include dealing with financial aid, selecting and registering for classes, academic support and important social-emotional and stress management support. I sure could have used this program when I entered college.

Success? Absolutely. SFIHS’s student college eligibility is 99% with 82% enrolled in college. College persistence – the SFIHS graduates that stay in college and graduate – is 93%.

That’s success despite lots of learning walls initially in front of each student. SFIHS works hard at eliminating the learning walls, working with and challenging each student to learn and create change for themselves and others.

As Hamilton (who was an immigrant from Nevis in the West Indies) and General Layfette (who was from France) sang in the musical Hamilton – “We’re immigrants. We get the job done.”

The ACE Spectrum Blog will be telling stories of SFIHS students who work hard to tear down walls and get the job done. Stay tuned.

Students Teach that Culture Means Community at Oakland International High School Community Walks

Posted by on Feb 10, 2020 in ACE Learning Center, ACE School Report, Continuing Education | 0 comments

By Martha Sessums, President, ACE

Sometimes you have to flip things to understand them better.

That’s what Oakland International High School (OIHS) does during their annual Community Walk. The classroom is flipped. It’s the students who teach the teachers along with other educators and visitors.

Adrian Lopez explains how the Community Walk works.

The purpose is for the adults in the room to listen to the students tell their various stories and perspectives about their background and cultures. For a day, students are the ones in charge. Not only are their stories about food, language, dress, dance and other traditions told, but stories are shared about challenges as new immigrants. It’s about learning a language. Navigating the legal system. Figuring out BART and other transportation options. Learning math. Understanding homework. Learning to read in English and one’s traditional language, and sometimes a third language to navigate all the paths. Making friends that understand and support. And figuring out what’s the value of high school? The value of college? And importantly, what’s their value to me?

All this flipped listening and learning makes a difference according to Lauren Markham, Community School Program Manager.

“Community walks are a beloved tradition in our community,” Markham said. “They invert the teacher-student relationship and encourage deeper listening as students and community members narrate their stories, share their perspectives and discuss what they need from us as educators.”

Yosely Ordonez-Gomez  (L) and Mileiby Hernandez Aguilar explain the color and style of traditional clothes.

I attended the Guatemalan Community Walk at OIHS recently and learned how to say “hello, good morning” in the indigenous Mam language (Jey B’an jun Xie te teya) which is a Mayan language spoken by about half a million people in Guatemala. I also learned that when Spain defeated the Aztec Empire in 1521 and invaded Guatemala in 1524, they replaced the indigenous languages (there are 30 dialects in Mam alone) with Spanish. So, some students speak Spanish only, some speak Mam only and some both.

According to the Guatemalan Student Leaders, one of their challenges is to speak English. They demonstrated the difficulty using phrases in Mam to try to understand and speak. Their language uses mouth movements and sounds that are foreign to me, just as English has movements and pronunciations they’re not used to. And each dialect spoken is different.

I’m a forever French language student so I understand language differences. But this was amazing. Four letters in Mam can be pronounced in three syllables – and half of those are in the back of the mouth. Language can be a big barrier and OIHS does a great job with the students and their parents to help them learn with a variety of techniques from Survival English as well as a positive school culture that supports all learners.

One of the ACE Learning Centers is at OIHS and focuses on providing English language classes for all parents. Teachers are from Refugee & Immigrant Transitions and parents learn survival English to figure out transportation, immigration issues, understand their rights, get and keep jobs and a host of other things. OIHS even has a garden where parent students grow favorite herbs and vegetables and have days where they share traditional cooking.

Cristobal Hernandez Velasquez describes the dance steps we will be learning.

Back to the Guatemalan classroom. We also learned about traditional clothes and that the color and style depend on the clan. Then we learned how to dance a favorite traditional dance with a one-two-three movement and a raised knee on the third step. I learned the technique from Christobal Hernandez Velasquez, one of the student leaders, and even got into the rhythm to turn a circle doing the three-step with him. He speaks Spanish, not Mam, but he sure dances Mam.

Our group then took BART to Laney College’s Latinex Cultural Center where we met the staff that supports the Latino community, including Guatemalan. The Center teaches Mam, but also helps students work out their personal education plans at Laney by helping students succeed in language and classes so they can finish Laney in two years and move on to a four-year college.

One of the Latinex Mam Instructors was Henry Sales who is an OIHS graduate. He also works at the US/Mexico border to interpret for those held by US Customs and Border Protection. With 30 Mam dialects, he can’t always help, but he is often there helping Mam speakers understand what is being asked of them and asking questions for them.

“They see me as hope, but I just interpret,” Sales said.

The Community Walk was over, and my interpretation was that these students are brave, strong, dedicated, curious and smart. They face more challenges in one day than many in the US face in a month. These Guatemalan students bring a lot to their classroom and to our country.

At OIHS, culture has a default meaning. Culture means community. Students teach, teachers learn and vice versa. The Community Walks help illustrate that definition of culture.

And how to dance in Guatemala. One-two-three, knee up.