The ACES program is known to organize a variety of trips for its students ranging from museums like MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to live performances at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) and other theaters in the city. In addition to these trips, ACES also organizes a variety of events on campus in the form of lectures, highlighting ACES tutors’ academic fields of expertise, and panel discussions. ACES students were also given a chance to exhibit their own work during the ACES eBook Reading. All of these events were possible due to a generous grant the program received from TD Bank for the 2012-13 academic year. The highlight of the year was the ACES 12 party, where the current ACES students were given an opportunity to meet alumni and upperclassmen, as well as the founder of the ACES program, Ms. Sidell Brooks.
The first performance we attended was a dance performance at BAM that was the Tanztheater Wuppertal’s production of Pina Bausch’s “...como el musguito en la piedra, ay si, si, si...,” which was set to the rhapsodic music of Chilean folk legend, Violeta Parra. This dance performance, a culminating retrospective, was a tribute to the German-born choreographer, who passed away in 2009. This event was preceded by dinner at Graziella's, which ACES student Tenzin Yingsal, describes as an evening that “brought the students closer as we conversed about our first year at college. I vividly remember discussing religion, as there were a diverse group of students who practice distinct beliefs. We got the opportunity to get to know each other more and also learn something new from each other’s cultures. Events like these are very helpful during hectic school life since they allow us to take a little time out for ourselves and open our minds to new adventures and experiences, whether by trying out a new meal or watching a wonderful dance performance.” This marked the beginning of a great year filled with fun-filled learning experiences.
As the year progressed we attended an off-Broadway play by contemporary playwright, Amy Herzog, called The Great God Pan. Jannatul Rahman was one of the students to attend who recalls the impact the play had on her: “I have never seen people perform live onstage. The Great God Pan was my first play. The characters were so precise in their expression of emotions. Artistically, I loved the way the setting of the play reflected the change in mood of the characters. The theme of the play was similar to our class theme, which focused on identifying cultural aspects within contemporary American society. Seeing the pressing social issues in the play helped me to understand American culture more deeply.”
We were also given the opportunity to attend a modern interpretation of Julius Caesar performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company at BAM. Set in present day South Africa and featuring an all-black cast, this production of Julius Caesar featured contemporary South African music, which added to the reimaging of the play. It was an amazing play, and my personal favorite. The performance was very powerful and did justice to the original play, written 414 years prior.
The highlight of the year was the ACES-12 party, organized to celebrate the 12th anniversary of this successful academic program. During my freshman year at St. Joseph’s College, I was blessed to work with an amazing group of students and a very dedicated faculty. By the end of the spring semester, ACES students were ready to celebrate their academic achievement and professional development. This party was on the second floor terrace of Graziella’s, where freshman ACES students were able to meet ACES upper classmen and successful alumni. There was a speech by the founder of the program, Sidell Brooks, and it felt amazing to actually meet her and hear her speak about the foundation that was established 12 years ago that enabled the program to grow from serving 6 students to now 75. ACES student, Juan Cerda, observes, “Celebration nourishes joy and happiness. At the ACES 12 party, we did not only commemorate educational success, but we were also touched by the hinge of felicity.” When celebrating success, good food should be on the table, and ACES 12 was a delicious experience. Through bonding with one another we grow academically, and there exist those moments when we have the chance to make school a different place, a place for learning about others. At the ACES 12 party, I felt the beauty of human interaction and look forward to three more years as an ACES student.