The ACES Summer Institute is a three-week English intensive summer program targeted to high school sophomores and juniors, who recently immigrated from countries all around the globe to experience the college life and the wonderful activities New York City has to offer while gaining important academic skills. An SAT prep class is also offered as part of the program to enhance their skills in the writing and reading sections of the test. Having more than twice the amount of students in this year’s program, the ACES staff accommodated the largest group since it began running in the summer of 2010. The 20 students in attendance this year came from five different high schools to participate in the program. Based on their positive experience in the Summer Institute, some students may apply to St. Joseph’s College and be accepted into the ACES program.
The program runs Monday through Thursday from 9:30am to 12:30pm. A typical day involves a light breakfast in the morning followed by an intensive English class where students discuss assigned book readings. The assigned book for this year was 1984 by George Orwell, a text which was contrasted with the recent controversial case of U.S National Security Agent, Edward Snowden. The students worked towards an understanding of what governmental surveillance and personal privacy means through the fictional world of Orwell’s novel, and applied that understanding to what Snowden revealed is at stake for American citizens. Joe Luo, a student from Fort Hamilton High School, reflected on this tension that Orwell forewarned:
“What I remember most from the novel is the interrogation where Winston totally lost his last defense against the regime. This moment shows how under the oppression of a powerful society, no one can escape it or confront it, but only confess and conform to it.”
Students are expected to work hard, but also to have fun! The summer program includes activities outside the classroom as well, such as attending the Broadway musical, Annie. According to Rathri Meah, a student from The Brooklyn International High School:
“The show was fantastic! It was my first time attending a Broadway musical and I was very excited knowing I was going to see one. The setting and intriguing background was topped with the amazing voices of the actors. It is a must see!”
Another student, Katherine Valdez, a rising senior, also from The Brooklyn International High School and attending the summer program for the second time, was eager to share her experience as well:
“Coming back to the ACES summer program at St. Joseph’s College was a much better decision for me as I wanted to sharpen my English skills and sustain what I learned back in school, which would ultimately prepare me for the SAT. It was a great combination of intense classroom work and exciting out of classroom activities. I was also able to meet new people and catch up with some friends who were from my high school. Overall, I would say it was a great experience! And I highly recommend it for high school students like me.”
Upon completing the program, students receive an honorary certificate of participation rewarding their hard work and effort, but they leave with so much more. Not only have they enriched their critical reading and analytical skills, but also they have made great progress in their writing abilities through a rigorous three draft process for a final formal essay. The focus of their papers was on whether or not the daily actions of an average person can change the course of history. Through contemplating this question, students called upon a wide range of inspirational figures, from Rosa Parks to Gandhi, who served as examples for their essays, but will also continue to serve as a source of encouragement to these high school students who all have a strong dedication of entering college in the fields of their choice.