ACE Provides Support to Students

ACE Provides Support to Students
Abril Perez

At the age of 16, life seemed to be working against Abril Perez. A high school sophomore, she had just become a teen mom and a statistic. As a high school senior and 18-year-old, she became a mom for the second time. And at 22, Abril became a statistic once again, this time, as someone who beat the odds to become a college graduate.

 

“Only 1 percent of all teenage parents will actually graduate with any form of a college degree,” says Abril, who is upfront about the choices she made and the role they played in her journey to becoming the successful young woman she is today. “I knew I needed to make better decisions and that the ACE scholarship was available to help me. I wasn’t just thinking about myself anymore.”

 

Despite cultural and economic barriers and the challenges of being a teen mom, Abril was always an honor student and she had an ace up her sleeve-- the ACE scholarship program. ACE, or the Achievement through Commitment to Education program, funds tuition, fees and books for up to 130 semester hours at Amarillo College or West Texas A&M University. The program is offered at three Amarillo ISD high schools including Caprock, Palo Duro and part of Tascosa. It is a collaboration between the Amarillo Area Foundation, AISD, AC and WTAMU. To qualify, students must maintain at least an 80 grade point average, a 95 percent attendance record and appropriate behavior while attending high school. 

 

“If it weren’t for the ACE scholarship, I probably would not have gone to college. When financial aid fell through or when scholarships ran out, ACE was always there,” she says. “It was one less worry.”

 

Last May, Abril walked across the stage to accept her college diploma with a bachelor’s degree in social work. After years spent navigating the system, Abril realized she wanted to help others find success too. “Even when you feel hopeless, you still want to do something with your life. The only thing I could do was ask for help,” she explains. “I don’t want anyone else to struggle when there’s so much help out there.”

 

Today, Abril is doing exactly what she envisioned, connecting resources with those who are in need of help. As the education and outreach coordinator at Haven Health Clinic, Abril has settled into life as a wife, mother and now, professional. She is working on her graduate degree and helping her husband and father of her children pursue his GED. The road to where she is now was not short or easy. “I was a teenage mom, but I’m also a person who has gone through things and made it through them. I don’t want ‘teenage mom’ to be my label. It’s just part of the journey that I took to get here.”

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