ACES helps urban fourth-through eighth-grade students in both Minneapolis Public Schools and St. Paul Public Schools overcome the academic achievement and opportunity gaps. Students who consistently attend ACES show academic growth, improved behavior and school attendance, and increased identity with their community. ACES is recognized as a model after-school program for MPS and SPPS.

ACES was founded in 1994 by Rajiv R. Shah, M.D. and Rhoda Au, Ph.D., who designed the ACES program based on 14 educational and psychological principles. Both realized the importance of having a proven rationale for ACES’ academic programming.

ACES Mission

The mission of ACES is to close the academic achievement gap of at-risk urban students in grades four through eight.

ACES Vision


  • Provide a safe environment for students.
  • Offer positive adult role models for students.
  • Provide relevant in-class and out-of-class experiences.


  • Enhance each student's potential to succeed academically, personally, and become a contributing member of the community.


  • To become the premier results-based after-school academic program in the Twin Cities.


ACES confronts the achievement gap head-on by addressing the fourth-grade reading slump of lower-income students that results in these students having "serious trouble with the study of science, social studies, literature, mathematics, and other content study that depend, in great part, on printed text" (Chall & Jacobs, 2003) in later years. ACES after-school academic programming strikes three critical components of educational development that have long-term benefits for students and the community:

  • Academics Improved cognitive skills relating to reading and math, enhanced study skills, and more-positive attitudes about school and academics. 
  • Behavior Improved behavior at ACES and during the school day.
  • Community Increased civic engagement, both short and long term, via service learning.