Our Mission

The mission of ACES is to help reduce the academic achievement gap in the Twin Cities and improve the likelihood of success for underserved students. 

Our Vision

Our vision is that ACES students succeed in college and career, and become engaged citizens in safe and equitable communities. 

Our History


Founded in 1994, ACES was founded by Raj Shah, a Minnesota-based doctor and entrepreneur who saw a need in the community for a safe place for students to learn at their own pace. What began as a small team of Shah and a handful of people is now a nonprofit program that empowers more than 500 students each program year with eight full-time staff and approximately 20 part-time Academic Coaches. 

Minnesota has a significant achievement gap that is especially prevalent in the Twin Cities. In 2018, there was a 49 percentage-point difference in math proficiency between white and African-American students in Saint Paul. This carries major implications for the future economic and social health of Minnesota. 

Our programming is focused on the students most impacted by educational disparities; our goal is to minimize the achievement gap and set up all youth to be successful and confident learners, regardless of their racial or socio-economic background. A recent longitudinal study via the U of M showed that ACES participants had higher high school attendance rates, higher reading proficiency scores, higher graduation rates - including on-time graduation - and better school engagement than students who did not participate in ACES.

Our Method

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Extensive research shows that middle school is a critical point in determining a student’s future. This is why ACES focuses on 4th through 8th grade students. Students who are proficient in math by 8th grade are more likely to master high school math, graduate high school, and succeed in college and career. Research also shows that if students are confident in math, they are confident in life!

We believe sports is a universal way to empower confident kids, which is why we’re proud to be the first organization of its kind in the Twin Cities to have the direct support of every major Minnesota professional sports team. These teams, along with the University of Minnesota Athletic Department, provide resources in terms of athlete appearances and mentoring, stadium tours and visits, and experiential learning opportunities.

Based on Minnesota state education standards, ACES intentionally focuses on the intersection of crucial social-emotional skills with math, using sports content to engage students in learning. By showing students that what they’re learning in the classroom applies to something they’re passionate about – sports - it translates to improved grades and a new passion for their own education!

Emerging research also reveals the importance of social-emotional skills for academic success, especially related to math. When students have the right mindset and confidence, they are more likely to persist through challenging academic situations and master critical math skills. ACES is one of the only out-of-school time programs that directly addresses this need. In doing so, ACES provides critical support to 4th through 8th grade students to develop the skills required for success in college, career, and community.