The Commerce community gathered to reflect on the achievements of the ASPIRE program in a second-anniversary celebration held February 20 at the Sam Rayburn Student Center. At the Dinner & Dialogue: ASPIRE Community Update, attendees discussed the achievements of the program and how to move the program forward.
ASPIRE is a partnership among Commerce ISD, A&M-Commerce and the City of Commerce with a purpose to enrich the lives of K-16 students through innovative programs and experiences. According to a recent article in the Texas Observer, 62% of Commerce ISD students are considered “economically disadvantaged,” and adequate funding is not always available for needed student enrichment programs. Lack of educational opportunities and summer learning loss negatively impact students, so the ASPIRE program fills a crucial need in the Commerce community.
In the Observer article, Commerce ISD Superintendent Charlie Alderman stated, “We’re like every other rural school district out there, you know — we’re struggling with funding. That’s why we had to reach out to the university to build other relationships and maximize the resources we have.”
ASPIRE features several impactful programs, including the ASPIRE Summer Experience, in which students participate in enrichment programs at the university. At the ASPIRE dinner, fifth-grader Brandon Nelle said Summer Experience participants visit the university’s children’s museum, planetarium, rec center and blueberry farm. Students also enjoy tours of the KETR radio studio and robotics demonstrations.
ASPIRE also features an after-school and summer program called ACE where A&M-Commerce work-study students mentor students after school and during the summer. AVID, another signature ASPIRE program, helps students develop study skills and become career and college ready.
Dr. Mark Rudin, president of A&M-Commerce, concluded the ASPIRE dinner by expressing the university’s commitment to the program and describing his vision for the future. “Let’s take ASPIRE one step further,” he said. “Let’s start thinking about a relationship where there is no difference [among campuses]. Let’s start thinking about it as one campus, collectively.”
Rudin suggested that Commerce ISD faculty could receive joint appointments where they share the university’s resources and receive benefits including grant writing opportunities, tuition scholarships, a Lion ID, parking, access to work-study students and use of university facilities including classrooms and the planetarium.
“There has been so much great work done in ASPIRE. I just wonder if we can figure out a way to continue to move this forward and be one Commerce,” Rudin concluded.