Academy of excellence

Teaches life skills for school success

Photos By: Cathie Lawrence and Irvin Trigueros.


Teachers, students and staff from throughout the Bay Area came together Friday, March 28 as Los Medanos College held A Day of ACE (Academy of College Excellence).

ACE is a full-time program that helps underprepared community college students develop the necessary academic qualifications and skills to succeed in both college and in life.

To ingratiate the group of about 30 people, LMC Math Professor and ACE Faculty Member Tue Rust and Berkeley City College ACE Faculty Member Esther Suarez presented slides showing the various statistics the program is attempting to turn around.

The stats include evidence that bachelor degree attainment by the age of 24 for higher income students continues to rise over 80 percent while lower income students hover around 10 percent.

The percentage gap is due to a number of reasons, as they take into account the variety of struggles and issues students are going through individually, such as having fragmented families and having unhealthy living situations.

Rust and Suarez went over the three main root problems of underprepared students; Life problems becoming overwhelming, life being more attractive than college and giving up due to issues centered around fear and anxiety and a feeling as though they are not “college material.”

The ACE Program will attempt to support students in their endeavors all the way through their college career. It will attempt to “light the fire for learning” with the student while monitoring progress, motivating the student, dealing with behavior and helping the student through life problems as they go through their academic career.

After multitudes of slides that continued to look at the ACE Program and how it goes about helping students, the group did an experimental activity on bio-reaction.

Bio-reaction is the immediate response the human body and mind have in reaction to an event using one of the four responses; fight, flight, freeze and appease. The goal of the activity was to understand the reasons why a student would react differently to potentially challenging situations in their life and how they may not have much actual control in their responses to diversity.

Rust paralleled the example of a student failing a test and feeling like they are going to “die” because of their failure when, in fact, that is not true. If a student is going off at the mouth to a teacher who failed them, Rust said, teachers can take a step back and realize that the student is in a bio-reaction mode and see that, “it is not personal and has nothing to do with me at all. Their brain thinks that their life is in danger, they think they are going to die, it is not true but this is their reaction.”

The group then moved on to another experimental activity about experiencing emotions based on prompts. The individuals in the group would walk to the emotion placard on the walls of the room that best fit what they thought of the prompt. The emotions were discomfort, mad, scared, sad, happy or comfortable.

The first prompt was if you were to hear someone being called a racial epithet. The group split off somewhat evenly to the discomfort, mad and scared portions of the room.

The second prompt was what your reaction would be if a friend randomly gave you $100. The group was more spread out as some people were in discomfort over why their friend might have done that while some were just happy because they received a very welcome sum of money out of nowhere.

The third prompt saw the room venture to the mad and scared emotions, as the question was “what you would feel if a friend told you they were using drugs.” The exercise showed how people react in different ways and feel differently about certain situations.

“With the ACE Program we do really focus on emotional intelligence, EI, versus IQ. Why is emotion intelligence so important? It is because of bio-reactions. We need to be able to identify our feelings and why they are coming up due to unmet needs,” said Suarez in response to how emotions really can affect the way people go about reacting to situations in correlation with understanding students emotions.

For more information on the ACE Program, go to or the official ACE website at You can also contact Tue Rust at [email protected] or 439-2181 ext. 3474.