ND’s Big Blue ACE RV Celebrates Hope in Tampa Catholic Schools

tampaNDbus1As an alumna of the University of Notre Dame, I always love following the good fruit being born by various programs of the University. One of these is the amazing Alliance for Catholic Education program which continues to find new and dynamic ways of supporting and promoting Catholic education.

I loved reading this week’s story about one of ACE’s tour stops on the 50-city campaign it is making around the country:

Nearly two decades ago, Sacred Heart Catholic School in Pinellas Park, Fla. was on the “death watch list,’’ said Bishop Robert Lynch of the Diocese of St. Petersburg. Families struggled to afford private school tuition, enrollment dwindled and tough decisions loomed for school leaders.

But instead of closing the school, Lynch forged a partnership with the University of Notre Dame and the Alliance for Catholic Education, a graduate program that trains future Catholic teachers and leaders.

Nearly 17 years later, Sacred Heart has more than 200 students and, like other Tampa Bay area Catholic schools, is expecting more growth in the years to come. It’s a success story that owes a lot to ACE.

“It saved these … schools,’’ Lynch told redefinED Wednesday, during a celebration that brought a giant blue RV emblazoned with the University of Notre Dame and ACE logos onto the grounds of Sacred Heart.

The stop was part of a national 50-city tour called Fighting for Our Children’s Future. It’s designed to raise awareness about the value of Catholic education and the profound impact it can have on children’s lives. It also stresses the need to keep Catholic schools relevant, active – and open. More than 1,300 U.S. Catholic schools have closed in the past 20 years. Read more…

Presentation of a University of Notre Dame Sorin Award for Service to Catholic Schools to the Most Rev. Robert Lynch, bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg.

Presentation of a University of Notre Dame Sorin Award for Service to Catholic Schools to the Most Rev. Robert Lynch, bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg.

Three excellent points underscored for me by William Schmitt of ACE and highlighted by the full article show local Tampa results that are being mirrored around the country:

  1. Increased enrollment: It’s noteworthy that enrollment in the two Notre Dame ACE Academies in the area has increased strongly since 2012—by 25% at Sacred Heart and 27% at St. Joseph.
  2. Closing the gap: Considering the goal of closing the “achievement gap” that burdens so many minority students trapped in failing schools, one can look at the 8th grade Math class at St. Joseph. The 26 students in this 8th grade class began the year at grade level. After 5 months, the class is scoring at the 12th grade equivalency. The Academies remind their students every day that their dual goals are “college and heaven.”
  3. Corporate and Community Support: Senior Vice President of sales Sean O’Grady presented the $40,000 check.  A new play structure will be installed, and local General Mills volunteers got right to work at both Sacred Heart and St. Joseph, shoveling mulch to help make the students’ play area safer and more accessible. The hydroponic learning gardens, a major addition to the schools’ nutrition and wellness programs, received special care from a local company, Hydro Harvest Farms.

Stay tuned as that big blue ACE RV motors its way around the country this Spring. I hope to share a personal encounter with the ACE team soon and will be keeping our readers posted on this season-long celebration of Catholic education.

About Lisa M. Hendey

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of CatholicMom.com and the bestselling author of The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms.


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