Jasmine Chavez is truly an ACE in the hole. The Tolleson Union High School senior and Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC) student recently testified at a state Senate hearing on a bill that would give Maricopa Community Colleges more funding to expand and grow the ACE, or Achieving a College Education, program.
“Speaking at the Senate in support of the ACE program was a lifetime opportunity,” Jasmine said. “I went in with a five-minute speech and then got there and was told I have one minute to convince senators of the phenomenal things the ACE program provides for students.”
ACE is a nationally recognized program that targets high school juniors and seniors who may not think going to college and getting a degree is an achievable goal. ACE students enroll in college courses while attending high school to experience and acclimate to a college environment in a real-time setting. They attend on scholarships that cover tuition, registration fees, and course fees.
“ACE provides an opportunity for those with unlimited talent who need a financial spark to make their dreams come true,” said Ralph Campbell, Interim Director - Enrollment Services and Director - Community Outreach and Partnerships.
Through ACE, Jasmine will have 24 college credits when she graduates from high school. She said the program has benefited her in more ways than one.
“Attending high school and college simultaneously has taught me proper time management skills,” she said. “And the ACE program has opened up many scholarship opportunities.”
Besides attending classes, ACE students and their families participate in an orientation and a series of ongoing activities and events such as financial aid workshops designed to keep them informed and connected throughout the two years. Student Success Workshops cover a host of topics that range from financial literacy to cover letter/resume building to career panels, in which university students and industry professionals speak about their educational trajectory.
“In our eyes, hearing vital information from first-generation students and professionals makes the college-going experience more tangible and encourages students to continue their journey to achieve a college education,” said Omar Romandia, Student Services Specialist - ACE Program.
ACE students also visit various university campuses throughout the state where they receive a campus tour and obtain information about specific degree programs while being given the opportunity to ask current students and university representatives questions.
“Overall, ACE provides students with a college experience that prepares them for a smooth transition to higher education after high school, Romandia said.
Jasmine was chosen to speak at the Senate hearing because she is one of several top-achieving ACE students who not only performs well in class, but also actively participates in ACE events and volunteer opportunities.
“She did an exceptional job when testifying at the Arizona state Senate, and provided committee members an excellent view of how ACE can benefit the life of a first-generation college student,” Romandia said.
To be eligible for the ACE program, a high school sophomore must have taken at least six high school credits and meet one or more of the following criteria:
First generation to attend college
Environmental factors (Works 10-30 hours, foster care, lives in temporary housing, teen parent)
Legacy-sibling or relative of an ACE participant
ACE students take classes during the regular summer sessions and on Saturdays during the fall and spring semesters, something Jasmine assures is an investment for a bright future.
“You can still enjoy all the fun of high school and the perks of college fun, as well,” Jasmine said. “You meet so many people and create irreplaceable memories and friendships.”
After graduating from high school, Jasmine plans to continue at EMCC and earn her Associate Degree in science and then transfer to Northern Arizona University where she will take premed classes.
“Jasmine is an exceptional student who is actively involved at Tolleson Union High School and in ACE,” Romandia said. “She is a positive individual, who is forward-thinking and has countless plans for the future as she progresses through life.”
He said Jasmine is incredibly mature and quickly learned to manage her time given the expansive list of responsibilities she has.
“She prides herself in performing well in her classes to pave the way for educational opportunities in the future,” Romandia said.
Of the 400 applicants EMCC sees every fall, 85 students are accepted into the ACE program. Most of them continue their education after they graduate from high school, Romandia said.
The timeline of the proposed bill to provide more funding for the ACE program is uncertain at the moment, but it has garnered positive feedback since its inception.
“I have no doubts that it will only gain more support over time,” Romandia said.
To learn more about the ACE program, go to https://www.estrellamountain.edu/students/ace.