Learning Together To Make Life Better

Learning Together To Make Life Better

Learning Together To Make Life Better
Ascendant Community Education

by Steve Gamel

Denton resident Holly Roden knew she and her family had something special on their hands when they founded Ascendant Community Education in 2017. After all, their heart was in helping underserved individuals and families, and they felt the best way to do that was by providing learning programs and support to affordable housing residents.

Big things were coming. But like anything else, Holly felt the program’s growth would be gradual. To say she was way off on her projections is an understatement.

“I went from thinking, ‘Ok, this is going to grow gradually’ to watching it explode,” Holly said with a laugh. She now runs the nonprofit with a team of 25 people, including her husband, Bill, and children, Alec and Rachel. “It’s mind-boggling to think about. There’s stuff happening that I never conceived of three months ago.”

She added, “My vision now is that there will be an ACE chapter in every Metropolitan area in the next 10 years.”

She has every reason to believe that. Through the first quarter of 2019, ACE has served 2,187 households and 5,767 individuals thanks to its dedicated staff and growing partnerships with property managers, local businesses, large affordable housing management companies, police departments, banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions. They are projected to reach 31,843 households and 95,530 individuals by year’s end.

Why should Denton County residents care about ACE? While there are organizations that produce educational programs, few have a systematic way of doing the same thing for affordable housing communities. That’s a shame when you consider 42 percent of all Texas households are at or below the low-income range according to the 2018 State of Texas Low Income Housing Plan and Annual Report commissioned by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

That represents over three million households, many of which are located closer than you think. ACE focuses on this demographic by delivering free, onsite educational programs and services (events, workshops, classes, etc.) that are customizable and meant for kids,
families, and adults.

“In one class where we had a police officer speak to kids, a child ran up to her parent saying, ‘I learned if you hang out with friends who do bad things, you can get in trouble, too,’” Alec said. “The child was excited, and the mother was like, ‘See, I told you that you have to pick your friends wisely.’ It showed the stuff we teach is sinking in.”

Their big initiative for 2019 is financial literacy and fraud prevention for the elderly and children. Financial literacy is the ability to understand financial concepts and make sound decisions. Having this knowledge is not only vital for our youth but becomes increasingly important for older adults who are typically the victims of scams and other pitfalls.

According to an article by CNBC in 2017, older Americans lose $36.5 billion each year to financial scams and abuse.

ACE programs include teaching about Power of Attorney and Payable on Death paperwork, choosing the right people to help manage your money, and understanding medicare and supplemental insurance. They’ve also brought in speakers from both the Dallas and Denton County Criminal District Attorney’s office, banks, and more.

For children, there are after-school programs and summer camps that they can rotate through and learn. For Holly, teaching these programs is worth every minute.

“I’ve been so blessed to have people around us who are drawn to these efforts,” Holly said. “I know it’s a huge job, but if everyone did something to help, America would be stronger.”

If you’d like to learn more about ACE or inquire about becoming a sponsor or partner, visit www.welcometoACE.org.

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