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ACE Program History

History of ACE Associates Degree Program

I. Alongside neighborhood leaders, the co-founders of I-LEAD, former D.A. Lynne Abraham and Assistant D.A. David Castro, worked in some of the city’s most distressed neighborhoods to resolve community problems. This productive collaboration led to a recognition that the key to changing a community’s prospects lay in cultivating the leadership skills and leadership capacities from within that particular place.

II. I-LEAD was formed in 1995 to promote these grassroots community leadership efforts by delivering leadership training and technical assistance in 16 cities across the Commonwealth in partnership with the Pennsylvania Weed and Seed program.

III. At the behest of adult trainees seeking college credit for their coursework, I-LEAD translated its leadership training into an accredited two year college program 2005 in collaboration with Harcum College. Graduates now gain not only leadership skills to apply in their communities, but a valuable credential in the workplace. ACE was piloted at the Chester Education Foundation in Chester, PA and now operates cohorts in Philadelphia, Upper Darby, Coatesville, and Reading, PA with large social service agencies: Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Chester Education Foundation, Resources for Human Development (RHD); faith and community based organizations: Deliverance Evangelistic Church, E3 West Youth Opportunity Center, Life Transforming Ministries, Upper Darby Community Outreach Corporation; and secondary schools: I-LEAD Charter School, One Bright Ray, Universal Audenried Charter High School, School District of Philadelphia Administration building.

IV. The ACE model is replicable in neighborhoods across the nation and can become a key strategy to achieve President Obama’s goal to restore the United States position as the global leader in college educated citizens. In recognition of the innovation and success of the model, I-LEAD received a multi-year investment from the Knight Foundation in 2008 and founder David Castro was named an Ashoka Fellow in 2009.  Ashoka is a global network of effective changemakers and social entrepreneurs.  Read more about founder David Castro here.