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PACE turns educational dreams into reality

Jennifer RiceBy Jennifer Rice

Returning to school, whether for your high school equivalency diploma (HSED) or a college degree, presents numerous barriers for many students. Financial concerns – not just how to pay for school, but how to pay all of the everyday bills – can make attending school seem like an impossibility. Then there are the logistical issues: transportation, childcare, and work schedules.

It is with these barriers in mind that the Pathways for Academic Career and Employment (PACE) program was created by the state of Iowa. In addition to providing financial assistance and referrals to resources, PACE Pathway Navigators work with students to identify an educational path that will lead to employment in high-quality local jobs.

Over the past five years the Iowa Valley Continuing Education PACE program has assisted more than 300 students in completing at least 350 trainings. Many students complete both non-credit and college credit programs.

When I first met Sara she was working at a local hardware store. She had dropped out in 8th grade and now had four children. Newly divorced, she knew it was time for a change. Through the PACE program, Sara received assistance paying for high school equivalency classes and childcare. Upon completion, she decided it was time for college and started her nursing prerequisites, becoming a Certified Nurse Aide along the way. Sara is now on track to graduate with her Practical Nursing diploma in the spring and plans to continue into the Associate Degree Nursing/ADN program next year.

James entered the Utility Technician program at the age of 44. Tired of working low paying jobs, he wanted to finally have a career. With a family and mortgage, he had more financial responsibilities than the average college student. James was also driving more than 150 miles per week commuting to campus. PACE was able ease that additional financial burden by providing gas cards and summer tuition assistance. Apprehensive about entering a new line of work at his age, James was also provided with one-on-one assistance with his resume, cover letter, and job search. Following the completion of his degree, James quickly secured a position with a local company, and now earns $27 per hour.

At some point in our lives most of us have needed an extra hand in achieving our goals. For Sara and James, the PACE program was the extra hand that assisted them with setting and achieving their career goals. If you feel like you could benefit from extra assistance while attending school, please contact me at 641-844-5629. I look forward to meeting you!

Jennifer Rice is a Pathway Navigator for Iowa Valley Continuing Education.

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