TSC ACE centers support student success

Rebecca Gutierrez was recently named valedictorian of the Porter Early College High School 2021 senior class and she credits the experiences she had as a member of the Texas Southmost College Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Center for her achievements.

The 18-year-old joined the 21st Century Community Learning Center based at Porter ECHS her sophomore year and remained active through her senior year by participating in library study hours before school to theater and drama after school.

“This program shaped who I was as a student and a person,” said the Brownsville native. “I’m a shy person, and this gave me the chance to participate in activities I may have never considered, broadened by horizons and changed my entire high school experience for the better.”

TSC’s Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers, in partnership with the Brownsville Independent School District and funded by the U.S. Department of Education, is a five-year grant program that supports the creation of community learning centers in local high schools. The program provides academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for students, particularly those who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools.

The program, also known as Texas Afterschool Centers on Education (ACE), helps students meet state and local student standards in core academic subjects, such as reading, mathematics, science, and social studies and offers students an array of enrichment activities that can complement their regular academic programs. The program also offers literacy and other educational services to the families of participating children.

Gutierrez participated in the library program, arriving early to school every day to get assignments and study in the quietness of the library equipped with internet and computers for research and homework completion.

This is where the valedictorian said most of her homework and studying was done.

“The library hours program was really great for me,” said Gutierrez. “It was where I could be alone and focus. It was where I did my best studying and best work.”

The Performing Arts Club through the ACE program also gave Gutierrez something to look forward to daily, with the opportunity to perform Romeo and Juliet and create choreography for a performance on Greek mythology.

All costumes and supplies needed to make each performance a success were provided by the ACE program.

“Without this program I would have never participated in anything like this. Honestly, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it,” said Gutierrez. “I think I did better in school because of it. It was a challenge to stay on top and this kept me working hard.”

TSC Texas ACE Program Coordinator Lisa Gonzales said Gutierrez’s diligence, talent and hard work have always been impressive.

“Rebecca is a born leader, and it has been a pleasure watching her grow these last three years,” said Gonzales. “I expect to see Rebecca accomplish great feats in her life since she is a student led by excellence.”

Gutierrez, who will be attending the University of Texas at Austin in the fall on a full scholarship, said she is grateful and thankful for the opportunities TSC and the Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Center gave her.

“Through this program I have learned lifelong lessons, grown as a leader and as a person, and been fully prepared to become a college student,” she said. “I thank TSC, the program and especially Lisa Gonzalez, our coordinator, for always going above and beyond for us and always providing support.”

To date, TSC’s 10 Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers have served more than 15,000 Brownsville middle and high school students like Gutierrez.

Students interested in this program should talk to their high school counselors.