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The Demon Tattler

The student news site of Santa Fe High School

The Demon Tattler

The student news site of Santa Fe High School

The Demon Tattler

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ACE Program Helps Students Find Career Paths

ACE+Program+Helps+Students+Find+Career+Paths

While many students have heard of the ACE program, few understand what purpose the class really fulfills. The ACE program (Academic Career Experience) is organized by a larger container called Work-Based Learning (WBL). ACE is simply the SFHS-sanctioned class associated with the WBL system. 

ACE is an academic career experience program where students learn employability skills and learn about businesses and organizations. ACE starts with a “boot camp” and transitions from the classroom to the “real world.” In early October, students will be interviewed and begin high-quality, paid internships with 30+ businesses.

Interns learn through experience what their strengths and weaknesses are, what they do and don’t enjoy, and what it’s like to work with a team outside of school. They get paid to work off-campus and earn an elective credit at the same time. 

Michelle Hogan, who was an English teacher at Santa Fe High until last year, helps run the ACE program. After teaching English for 15 years, she said she was “ready for a new challenge.” As a teacher, she spent most of her days talking to students about their lives outside of school and wanted to find a way to help teens in “real life,” especially with money.

In the summer of 2022, Ms. Hogan met Jose Villarreal, the coordinator of WBL, who brought this district-wide program to Santa Fe. He established partnerships with the city and county to pay the interns and connected the program to businesses and organizations all over Santa Fe to give the interns a wide variety of internship opportunities. 

Villarreal hired Ms. Hogan to teach one section of ACE during the 2022-23 school year, which Ms. Hogan loved. By 2023, the program had grown from a handful of students and interns to over a hundred. In 2023, Hogan applied and was hired to work full time helping Villarreal run the program for the district. What she called her “cherry on top” was that she’d be allowed to have an office at SFHS (in the middle of A building) and stay close to her students and teacher friends. 

The purpose of ACE is to prepare students for work and to connect students to job opportunities. ACE offers internships in hospitality, health, law enforcement, emergency response, law and policy-making, land management, research, IT, business development, water analytics, 3D printing, art and gallery work, childcare, reading and tutoring, lifeguarding, refereeing, project coordinating, marketing, social media, public relations, medical offices, economics, credit unions, sports filming, sports announcing, public records, film making and more. 

The internship program gives students a chance to try various career paths and experience career environments to help them make informed decisions moving forward. If students complete a WBL internship in, for example, a dentist’s office and they hate the work,  great! The internship still adds value to the students’ resumes, and they have a better understanding of what they do and do not like. 

For example, if a student is considering going into law enforcement, they can intern with the SFPD and truly experience how police officers spend their days. They can participate in ride-alongs and emergencies, but will also observe the boring paperwork and time spent in the office. Likewise, students considering a career in childcare will spend their internship testing out what it’s like having kids crawl over them for three hours. 

Students considering a career in government can work as policy interns, assisting with research, writing, editing, and amending legislation for the city of Santa Fe. Students who are great at making TikTok videos can learn to use that skill in a marketing career.

The Work-Based Learning program has expanded quickly. It started with a handful of interns a couple of summers ago, and now the program has almost 80 interns at SFHS alone. Ms. Hogan teaches ACE in seventh period, and Linda Montaño teaches it during sixth period. There are also sections at Capital, Desert, and ECO.

ACE is no longer accepting new interns for this school year, but it will be accepting interns for the 2024 summer internship program and the 2024-25 school year.

Ms. Hogan is in the office across from A-136. She says students are welcome to stop by anytime. 

Senior Dulce Garcia joined the ACE program because she thought it would be an easy way to earn a school credit. She is an intern at the SFPS Early Childhood Center, which she never thought she’d want to do: “Originally, I wanted to pursue a career in medicine, but thanks to my internship I realized I wanted to go into education.”

Dulce’s favorite part of ACE has been the community. “I love how all the business partners are excited to welcome new interns,” she said. 

Dulce recommends that other students join ACE. “I would strongly recommend the ACE program to underclassmen. You never know. Maybe you can learn that you like something you think you don’t. It’s a great opportunity.” 

Another SFHS student, Christopher Calles-Mejia, joined the ACE program because he saw an opportunity to work with law enforcement, which is an interest of his, and because he liked the idea of getting a school credit while working professionally. He is an intern at the City of Santa Fe Police Department. 

Christopher has gained a lot of knowledge from the SFPD.He explains, “During my time working with them, I have gained a new perspective, and I now see police officers and police work differently after seeing everything they have to go through, which I think more people need to see for themselves and understand before giving them a hard time.” 

Christopher explains that the law limits what police officers can do for certain situations, which in the end prevents officers from satisfying all civilian demands. “Sometimes, depending on the situation and circumstances, some things are just unsolvable. And after all, police officers are the ones who have to take in people’s anger and frustration unfairly when they are just people too and they do their best to resolve public issues.” 

ACE has treated Christopher well. “It has made me feel good about myself because I’ve done a lot to help the police department, and ACE rewards that with the school credit and the pay, as well as compliments and recognition.” 

Christopher highly recommends ACE to students, especially those who are hard-working. He plans to stay in the SFPD, both for a second internship after high school. 

More information is available at the WBL website.

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