New facility helps students ACE academics

With world-class instructors in all departments, Interlochen students thrive on the stage, in the studio and in the classroom. This year, Interlochen’s educational staff are taking extra strides to give every student the opportunity to excel academically.

The centerpiece of these efforts is the Academic Center for Enrichment (ACE). ACE serves as a central hub for both Interlochen’s traditional academic aids and several new programs.

ACE is the culmination of a multiyear effort by Director of Education Programs Christopher Chesley and his staff. Liberal Arts Rotunda classroom 2 was remodeled to serve as a home for ACE, and the space features partitioned sections that serve as work areas for different groups of students. Another corner of the room has been transformed into a cozy reading nook with beanbag chairs. “I wanted it not to feel like a traditional classroom,” said Chesley.

ACE’s core program is Interlochen 101, a long-running introductory course for new freshman and sophomore students. Chesley has revamped the course for the 2016-17 school year: it now includes the creation of a personal learning plan (PLP) as well as modules on college counseling, library orientation, wellness, technology and more.

Freshman Larkin Lucy is currently a student in the Interlochen 101 program. “Interlochen 101 has helped me establish an effective, organized way to keep on track during my first year at the Academy,” she said. “The proctors of Interlochen 101 are always able and willing to help me with any questions I have, and have allowed me to continue my year at Interlochen with success.”

The center also offers several programs to help students who are struggling academically. Traditional tutoring services are available and are funded by deposits included in student tuition. Beginning this year, all tutors are vetted professionals who are hired through Human Resources to ensure quality. Another of ACE’s programs is Assisted Study, which is essentially an extra study hall period. Assisted Study gives students a specified time during academic hours to work on their homework in a guided, distraction-free setting.

Poppy Rose Rosales is one of the students who has already taken advantage the Assisted Study program. “I work a lot better in structured environments than I do with free time, so ACE readjusted my schedule so that I had two study halls with them instead of a free period,” she said. “Within this two-hour time period, the ACE staff are constantly asking what I need, and help me with managing my time to complete my work in a less chaotic manner.”

Students who require more serious aid are referred to Learning Support. Learning Support students participate in both small group learning support sessions and weekly one-on-one meetings with Learning Specialist Dr. Michael Kern. Learning Support is currently free of charge for students of all ages and grade levels.

ACE’s final program offers assistance to Interlochen’s accelerated students. Many Interlochen students are enrolled in online classes at colleges or other academic institutions; these students can often find it difficult to juggle their online courses along with their Interlochen classes and artistic obligations. Advanced Study provides these students with an academic hour reserved for their online studies.

One of ACE’s greatest triumphs is the integration of student affairs and education. “We wanted to get the faculty more connected with residence life,” said Chesley. “We want students to know that everyone is here to help them succeed.” To achieve this goal, ACE employs three residence life counselors as “interns.” According to Chesley, the three counselors have backgrounds and interests in education, making ACE internships a mutually beneficial agreement: the students receive assistance, and the interns receive educational experience.

Chesley hopes to continue to expand the Academic Center for Enrichment to enable it to serve more students. Over spring break, Mott 3, which currently hosts teacher offices, will be remodeled to serve as the new home for ACE; Mott 3 will eventually be connected to the adjacent classroom, Mott 4, to create a larger space specifically designed to optimize student experiences.

For more information on the Academic Center for Enrichment, visit the center’s webpage.