KHS PACE program starts ninth-graders on the path to successMay 02, 2022 08:58PM ● By Peri Kinder
By Peri Kinder | [email protected]
This year, more than 30 ninth-graders at Kearns High School were given the gift of education. Due to a donation from Mark and Kathie Miller, KHS joined the Salt Lake Community College PACE scholarship program that helps increase graduation rates and college enrollment.
Partnership for Accessing College Education is a relationship between high schools, local businesses and SLCC that started 10 years ago. Eligible students begin the program in their freshman year and continue through high school graduation.
Upon completion of the PACE Scholarship Program, students receive up to a two-year scholarship to SLCC, covering tuition and fees. Monica Gomez is the PACE adviser at KHS. She’s excited to work with the inaugural group of PACE students at the high school.
“As advisers, we set up shop in a high school and become part of the high school staff. We work with students to get them college-ready,” Gomez said. “We help students navigate relationships with the teachers and teach them to advocate for themselves.”
Students are also mentored by past PACE participants. Ingrid Medina, a Taylorsville resident who participated in the Cottonwood High School PACE Scholars, is in her second semester at SLCC, studying biology. West Jordan resident and PACE mentor Alexa Rosales also graduated from CHS.
“We meet [students] and tell them they can come to us for help,” Medina said. “[PACE] helped me get out of my comfort zone and reach out to opportunities that are offered. It helped me financially so I don’t have to worry about money and I can focus on school.”
Rosales said the program helped give her direction for post-high school. “I was very indecisive on what I wanted to do and it helped me get a head start on college,” she said.
PACE students create academic plans geared toward graduation and success. Through activities and workshops they can explore different career options. Field trips like visiting Loveland Living Planet Aquarium give them information about becoming marine biologists or an aquarist, caring for fish and underwater animals.
Currently, 300 students are participating in the SLCC Pace program. To be eligible to apply, students must be in ninth grade at Cottonwood, East, Highland, West or Kearns High Schools. They must also be a first-generation college student or demonstrate financial need.
The opening of the Kearns program is unique because of the gift from the Millers. The donation provides resources and seeds scholarship funds for PACE graduates at KHS. Their donation was the largest, single private investment in the history of the SLCC PACE program.
In an interview for SLCC Magazine, Mark Miller said “I am good at giving people the ball and letting them run with it. PACE, in effect, does the same thing; providing an opportunity for students who want to succeed to get on a fast track to do better.”
PACE has demonstrated success over the past 10 years. Gomez said 80% of students stay for all four years of the program, 99% graduate from high school and 65-70% move on to SLCC.
“Some of what we do is to get them caught up to grade level in math and reading,” Gomez said. “We use the iReady program to help them get caught up with independent work. The whole goal is to be college-ready and to go on to secondary education.”