SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Friday there was an open house for a new Sioux Falls school offering a different style of education to young at-risk children and children of color.
Because of COVID-19, two moms were looking for a new option of education for their children. However, once they got together and started coming up with ideas, it became something much bigger.
“Three weeks later we have this institution academy for our kids. As we were developing the idea, we realized that our kids being children of color is that we had an opportunity to educate them in a different way,” founder JJ Johnson said.
So, they started ACE Academy for students in kindergarten through 8th grade. ACE stands for Accurate and Conscious Education.
“We focus on a world view curriculum, we also focus on self-development like mindfulness, meditation. Things that are good for your mind, body and your spirit,” Johnson said.
Right now all of the students enrolled are children of color. The new school targets minority and at-risk populations, but is open to anyone looking for a well rounded education.
“There’s a lot of research that we put behind this. This isn’t something that we definitely not casually threw together. There’s research that shows that curriculum that’s based in culture really helps minority achievement levels. Currently there is a huge minority achievement gap and our students are falling behind. So, with this model that we’re using and that culture-based curriculum, we’re having representation, we’re showing and exposing them to things that they might not be getting exposed to elsewhere,” founder Chloe Clements said.
I would say for me and the reason I believe in the mission because someone who grew up being an immigrant, I feel the mission that we have helps children develop at the core foundation and get them to where they need to be,” development director Kuol Malou said.
ACE Academy is a 12 month program that also has an after school program so kids can stay there from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. all year long.
“Growing up, I felt that having after school program and not going home to an empty home when you’re parents are working 14-12 days, it’s important to have something to do to keep us out of trouble, keep us engaged. And the fact that we believe in education continuing after school obviously keeps that mind going,” Malou said.
“When you have control of anyone’s day for that large of a portion for that time, we’re truly influencing what they’re in taking and ultimately what they’ll export to the community. So, we know that some of our students may not being going home to the best environments, but when they’re here at ACE and in our program, we’re able to control that and really show them a different way and build up those personal characteristics,” Clements said.
School begins on September 8th.
The new school has a licensed teacher that will be teaching the core curriculum classes virtually. In the afternoons, the school will have community partners come in to expose children to things such as entrepreneurship, business and firefighting
“We have people who are willing to come in to teach and show our kids really a lot of fields. So they’ll be learning about money management, about real life skills and things like that that they can use beyond just our academics,” Clements said.
“The reason why we believe the parents will believe in it is because, like Chloe said, the power of exposure. Most kids have big dreams, but then how can you dream if you’re not exposed to the environment you want to be in. So we definitely believe in that and educating kids and meeting them where they’re at. Basically, if they’re a gifted artist, we will collaborate them with someone who is an artist,” Malou said.
Clements says the children will learn based on a subscription program.
“We really want to promote self-led learning and we want to guide them into really achieving things because they want to, because they have a passion and zeal and zest for learning,” Clements said.
Tuition sponsorship for the school is over seven thousand dollars, but you can help ACE Academy and the students through donations.
“We really need the community support in making this academy stay afloat and be something that’s sustainable. We need volunteers, we need donations. We really want to offer a tuition-free education for our kids and they only way we can do that is through donations and sponsorship,” Johnson said.
ACE Academy also offers case management and mental health services.