Minnesota Department of Education statistics are abundantly clear and confirm what many of us already know - low-income students throughout the state are falling further behind in math, reading and in high school graduation rates.
Our sole mission is to help reduce the academic achievement gap in the Twin Cities and improve the futures for at-risk students. At ACES, we know learning can best happen when kids are engaged and happy so we’ve partnered with the Minnesota Lynx, Timberwolves, Twins, Vikings, United FC and Wild to support our work. In fact, we’re proud to be the first, and only, organization of its kind in the Twin Cities to have the direct support of every major Minnesota professional sports team.
ACES has served more than 5,000 students since its founding 20 years ago. In 2015, we had 600 kids enrolled in our programs and expect to grow that number in 2016.
Our focus is low-income, traditionally underserved students in the 4th through 8th grades. Nearly 90% of ACES students are eligible for free and reduced price lunches.
We offer programming at 10 sites throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul, at public schools and several area Boys & Girls Clubs.
ACES is focused on programming that brings learning to life for the students. We are able to do this by weaving in social and community learning projects, and using sports to demonstrate educational concepts. By showing students that what they are learning in the classroom applies to something they’re passionate about – sports - it translates to improved grades and a new passion for their own education.
In addition to the emphasis on building academic skills, ACES helps students learn important life lessons around perseverance, teamwork, anti-bullying and emotional intelligence. We incorporate activities designed to get them interested and engaged in sports history, statistics and science.
We are deliberate about targeting kids in 4th through 8th grades as this is a specific stage of reading where kids transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” For at-risk students in particular, this time is critical to their future academic success.
Our approach targets three components of educational development – academics, behavior and community – all of which have been proven to increase the likelihood of academic and social success.
- Academics – improved cognitive skills related to reading and math
- Behavior – improved behavior at ACES and during the school day
- Community – increased social skills and civic engagement through positive adult relationships
ACES has been able to help its students consistently demonstrate higher achievement and engagement in school. Recent studies of two ACES groups found that frequent ACES participants had higher high school attendance and graduation rates, as well as higher reading proficiency scores and better school engagement.