Tis the Season of Giving and Admiring
By Martha Sessums, President, ACE
This can be a lovely time of year when we connect with family, share stories about the year’s events and eat pie and cookies. I spent the last weekend doing that, along with a long list of chores around the house and at the computer for work.
The sit-down dinner with the grandkids was fun, and I gained points for not only knowing about TikTok but I have the app on my phone. I even taught the kids to tell me “OK Boomer” if they didn’t like my stories. In turn, I could say “OK Gen Z” for the same reason. And we all laughed at the labels because we were just having fun and there was no judgement involved.
Then on to our long-time friend’s house to join their family. Although I’m not as connected with their kids and grandkids, it was an enjoyable time talking about a wide range of topics from food to travel to health to family traditions.
It’s these connections with family and friends that make me thankful for the ACE Learning Centers. They remind me how lucky I am that I have family around me and can visit friends when I want. That the grandkids – boys and girls – have choices about their education and what they want to do in life. That, in reality, our lives may not always be easy, but they don’t compare to many of the experiences of the students and parents that the ACE Learning Centers touch.
• Living in a country where you don’t know the language. Not only that, you were never, or poorly taught, to read and learning a language requires reading if one wants to read the bus schedule or information from Immigration Services.
• The first school you attended (if you ever attended one) was a mud and straw hut or a tent, so the sturdy walls and gates of this Bay Area school can be intimidating yet offer safety too. And you walked to that school tent in your sometimes shoeless feet. No cars, no carpooling, no buses, no BART, no bikes, no scooters.
• You’re a refugee who fled your country and passed through several others to get to the Bay Area. You and your family left to escape violence or war, yet the journey could also be violent.
• Because of your journey, you have not been to school for many months, and some of your fellow students have not been to school for years. You arrive at this new school hopeful, yet fearful.
• Everyone looks and talks different because the students in the school are from countries covering the alphabet from Afghanistan to El Salvador to Yemen. It can be isolating. But also a chance to make friends across cultures.
• You’re a parent who doesn’t know English, but you need to learn it to get a job and support your family. You need a school that will teach you in the evening hours when you’re not working or support you to perhaps earn a high school diploma.
• You are offered an opportunity to learn a new skill and the training you receive gives you the tools, courage and support to begin producing your own stories.
The students in the ACE Learning Centers learn many new skills. They learn English and math. They learn how to enter college and are emotionally supported once they get there, and some even have College Mentor jobs through ACE. There are amazing stories of students that succeed in high school and college and their lives. And stories of students who follow a passion or parents that succeed in learning new skills to improve themselves, their families and their businesses. Plus, stories where these successes are a struggle.
Sharing some of these stories is what I want to do in the ACE Spectrum blog for 2020 – the Year of Perfect Vision as I told my eye doctor the other day. Only by seeing into how others live and learn, their challenges and battles, their grit and dedication can we see ourselves.
The research firms like to put labels of Boomer, Gen Z, Millennial etc. on us, but the real label is that we are human, and we need to support each other. That is what ACE Learning Centers do and I admire the educational leaders who run the programs. So please look forward to ACE Spectrum sharing the ACE Learning Center student stories so we can admire their journeys and successes.