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Meet Herbert Brown. A dedicated family man, Herbert always wanted to go to college, but with six children to provide for, working as much as possible had to be top priority. Now that his children are grown and graduated from college themselves, earning a degree became a possibility.

Herbert actually learned about the ACE program while accompanying his wife to an open house about postsecondary opportunities hosted by her employer. There they met ACE staff who explained that ACE is structured with the busy lives of working adults in mind: classes are held in the evenings and meet only two times per week at a community based location. Although the timing didn’t work out for his wife, she encouraged Herbert to go. “Why don’t you go? You’ve always wanted to.” And Herbert signed up!  

“All my kids went to college. I think they cheered at my graduation more than I did.” 

At mid-life with a lot of time out of the classroom, Herbert is honest about what it was like to go back to school. “It was hard at first, I ain’t gonna lie, getting back into a routine.” He had to tightly manage his time incorporating school as a priority amidst work and family. “But I began to like it. I really enjoyed learning. What I enjoyed the most was talking to other students about what we were learning.” With a fond smile, he jokes, “The conversation wasn’t just about sports! My college experience introduced me to a whole new group of people.” In fact, students became instructors of  one another. One person’s comments and ideas spurred those of another. One person shared an example that facilitated understanding among the class. 

Such shared learning was possible because of the small class sizes and personalized culture of the partnership site. Whereas a large lecture hall at a big school could be an intimidating learning environment, students felt comfortable sharing their ideas in a smaller class. Even though Herbert attended the largest partnership site, there were only 100 students in total. Site staff, students and professors “knew your name and you knew everybody.” Partnership site staff were there to help him with everything, from getting textbooks through the on-site lending library, to connecting with a math tutor, to resolving misunderstandings between students and instructors. “I had constant help along the way. The staff pushed us through to the finish line and we pushed each other.” 

Student support for one another extended past graduation. Students often spoke with one another about the fact that an associate degree was not enough to get where they wanted to go in their careers. They needed a bachelor’s degree. And along with several classmates, Hebert went on to Chestnut Hill College, entering as a junior because all of his credits transferred. With a vision to open a drug treatment center, Herbert is going one step further and now pursuing a Masters degree in Human Services Management. 

Reflecting on his choice of a human services major, Herbert recognizes that he always wanted to help people. He views his construction career through a helping lens because he helps people do what they can’t do for themselves and provides the peace of mind that comes from finally resolving a long needed home repair. He also notes how college helped him in unexpected ways. Going to college helped increase his patience with his kids, approach work with a career in mind vs ‘a job,’ and build his confidence. “I feel like I can take on bigger challenges.” 

To young men out there, Herbert advises, “GO TO SCHOOL! You can’t do anything without it, You have to keep growing and learning. The higher you go, the more you know, and the more you know about life. Learning is a growth process. Start small at ACE and then step up.” 

Thinking about college and want to learn more about ACE? Contact ace@i-leadusa.org