PACE student Brenda Garcia (right) and her mother.
Seniors from East, Highland and West high schools were celebrated for their successful completion of the program PACE (Partnerships for Accessing College Education). The four-year program, which starts for eligible students their freshman year, was created through a partnership with local high schools, businesses and Salt Lake Community College.
PACE students who finish the program can receive a two-year scholarship to SLCC, though one of the seniors at the celebration, for example, will be attending Harvard instead. PACE students receive ongoing advisor support and advocacy to ensure their success. They also have help building a strong academic foundation by requiring them to take college-level classes while in high school. Upon completion of the program, students can also be considered for the Access U program, which guarantees transfer from SLCC to the University of Utah.
During the celebration at SLCC's South City Campus, several students shared stories of challenge and triumph, diminished expectations from adults and society and hearing they are too poor or the wrong skin color to succeed in college. They talked candidly about what it's like to be labeled "undocumented" and proudly lauded parents who took risks and made sacrifices for their children to have more opportunities and a better life than from where they came. SLCC President Dr. Deneece G. Huftalin and Dr. Roderic Land, special assistant to the president, took part in the celebration, praising students for their perseverance and achievements, cheering them on as they head off to college.
PACE staff Janeth Marroquin (l-r), Monica Gomez Rogerson, Sendys Estevez and Mario Organista
To qualify for PACE, students must have a 2.5 GPA or higher and be either a first-generation college student, an underrepresented student in higher education or demonstrate a financial need. Once accepted into the program, students are required to maintain a 90 percent on-time attendance, keep at least a 2.5 GPA and maintain letter grades of C- or above in all core classes. Students are also required to job shadow or take part in Summer Career Exploration, as well as take four years of progressively advanced math, one AP, IB or concurrent enrollment general education class and graduate from high school in eight consecutive semesters.