August Non-Profit: African Community Education

By Dani Babineau

We learn about our monthly non-profits in a lot of places. Sometimes we read about their work in the paper. Sometimes they’re recommended by friends. And sometimes they stand in line for over an hour during our grand opening, just to say hello and drop off a card (and drink beer, obviously).

That’s how we learned about our non-profit for August, African Community Education (ACE) -  and it didn’t take long for us to fall in love with the organization and their mission.

ACE works to help African refugee and immigrant youths that arrive in Worcester with significant gaps in their education. ACE empowers these students to close that gap by providing educational resources, mentorship, and leadership development. Over the years, they’ve helped hundreds of students successfully continue their education. That’s awesome and admirable work.

And we’re happy to be supporting ACE this month because their largest event - the 13th Annual ACE Gala - is just around the corner, taking place on Thursday, November 7 at Mechanics Hall. This month’s campaign will jump-start the fundraising for the gala and help ACE surpass its goal of raising $60,000.

So let’s get after it. Learn more about the amazing mission of ACE, and their goals for this year, in our Q&A with Tim O’Neil, ACE’s Marketing & Fundraising Manager, below.

What’s the mission of ACE and what does the organization do?

The mission of African Community Education is to assist African refugee and immigrant youth and families in achieving educational and social stability through access to academic support, leadership development, cultural expression, and community outreach. Our vision is a community where African refugee and immigrant youth and families are empowered, self-sufficient, and secure.

As refugees and immigrants, many African youth arrive in Worcester with significant gaps in their education. ACE helps to close these gaps by investing in the transformative powers of education, mentorship, and access to opportunities. Through impactful programming and relationship building, we provide what kids and families need to succeed - the knowledge that people are in their corner, eye-opening experiences, and the creativity to imagine a brighter future.

For youth ages 10 and up, ACE hosts After School, Saturday, Mentoring, Summer Reading, and Workforce Development Programs. Through these programs, ACE provides access to tutoring, supplemental classroom time, experiential learning activities, and one-on-one mentoring which help students succeed academically. ACE also serves as a liaison between the student, family, and local public schools to ensure each student’s home and school lives provide environments for success.

For parents of our students, ACE provides English as a Second Language and Citizenship classes as part of our Family Education Program along with wraparound outreach services to help families access needed services and benefits. Through this work, we have changed the lives of thousands of African refugees and immigrants.

Why is ACE's mission important to the Worcester area?

Worcester is one of the largest hubs in the country for African-born immigrants and their children, with a population near 20,000. While some of these immigrants find socio-economic success upon moving to the United States, many others do not. In fact, there are over 5,000 African-born immigrants and their children living at or near the poverty line in Worcester.

African Community Education exists to help these Worcester residents find academic success, achieve financial independence, and provide a better life for children of their own.

Our country’s leadership is consistently  “othering” refugees and immigrants, trying to argue that they are less American, that their citizenship is conditional, and that they should consider themselves lucky to be here.

In response, Worcester and communities like ours must send the message that these ideas could not be further from the truth; refugees, immigrants, and asylum seekers are deeply and profoundly American, and this country benefits from their contributions.

We are lucky that they bring resilience, passion, joy, determination, unique perspectives and experiences, and love to this country - characteristics we experience every day at ACE.

Worcester can provide a shining example for the rest of the country by showing that refugees, immigrants, and asylum seekers are always welcome here and deserve the same opportunities for success as all Americans. 

What has ACE accomplished that you’re most proud of?

Since our founding, we have graduated 225 students from Worcester Public Schools. These students have gone on to attend incredible institutions including Brandeis University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Boston College, Suffolk University, Jacksonville University, Anna Maria College, Assumption College, Worcester State University, and many more. 

Does ACE have any upcoming events that people should know about?

Yes! The 13th Annual ACE Gala is taking place on Thursday, November 7 at Mechanics Hall.

The theme for this year’s event is “The Journey” as we highlight the remarkable steps our students and families have taken to get to where they are today along with their plans for the future.

The event includes live music and dance performances, a fashion show, authentic African food, and the opportunity to meet our kids and families and hear their stories first hand.

You can purchase your discounted Early Bird tickets online at

Our fundraising goal for this year’s event is $60,000. In fact… 

How might donations from Redemption Rock customers help ACE in the future?

...every dollar donated during our August partnership with Redemption Rock Brewing will go towards our $60,000 goal! 

Our Annual Gala has grown in recent years, raising $17,000 in 2017 and $35,000 in 2018, bringing us to this year’s goal of $60,000. 

Achieving this goal would mark a truly transformational campaign for our organization. Right now, the bulk of our youth programming serves 12-18-year-olds. We plan to grow that in two ways over the next three years. 

First, we will begin programming for students ages six and up. Working with these younger students will help them to achieve academic stability and success early on in their academic careers, providing more opportunities as they get older. 

Second, we will expand our programming to assist ACE students who have graduated high school and are now attending college or participating in the workforce. These ACE alumni have overcome many obstacles to graduate high school, and we want to ensure we are doing all we can to help them find success at institutions of higher learning and find and grow rewarding careers. 

Reaching our goal of $60,000 at this year’s Gala would jump-start these two new programming initiatives and help us to accomplish many of the goals we have planned for the next three years. Every dollar has an impact!