Picking up the PACE: Unexpected rewards

Feb 10, 2014

Taylor WojoiechowiczTaylor Wojoiechowicz and Macey Grise stepped outside of their comfort zones when they agreed to become academic coaches in a new program that paired them with teenagers who were court-ordered to participate in regular tutoring as part of their probation.

Although apprehensive at first, Taylor, a sophomore Spanish education major from Detroit, and Macey, a junior psychology major from Piqua, had such positive experiences that they volunteered to continue with the PACE program again this semester.

PACE -- short for Partners in Academic Coaching for Excellence – was created by education professor Dr. Karen Jones in collaboration with Seneca County Juvenile Court Judge Jay Meyer.

In its first semester, 19 ‘Berg students participated in PACE, some through a service learning requirement and some as volunteers. Together the academic coaches work with children on homework and literacy, and give them a positive view of school and learning. “The coaches are very independent. They are responsible for scheduling and prioritizing their work together. … We’ve had nothing but wonderful feedback from the probation officers for our students,” Karen says.

“All students need one-on-one attention. These children especially need it.”

Macey GriseMacey agreed to work with three students; Taylor tutored one. “They were initially nervous, but they started to get into it after they realized there was more out there,” Macey says. “They started to think about their future plans and realize we’re here to help them reach their goals.” Taylor adds: “Having someone to help and guide (my student) made him want to do better.”

The ‘Berg academic coaches agree that their students may have lacked a realistic view about how to get to the next phase in their lives. Macey was able to help her student get a jump start on applying to college and another take steps to enlist with the Marines.

Seeing their students progress in academic and life skills would have been reward enough, but both Macey and Taylor saw their confidence soar, and that was unexpected.

“We were able to show them that once they start trying, they can do well. Their confidence went up as well,” Taylor says.

Throughout the process, the ‘Berg academic coaches stay in contact with their students’ probation officers and school counselors. Those communicationsgave them valuable insight into circumstances with the students’ home life. When the students realized someone was invested in their improvement, things often turned around.

“When they realized someone was willing to put the time in and someone cared about them, they were willing to do the same and begin to understand their own self worth,” Macey says.

Both women decided to return to PACE because they believe they made a difference through their connections with their students. For Macey, the experience helped her decide on a career path in social work. “I feel like just by doing my small part as a tutor, it was enough to give hope. More kids need something like this,” she says. Taylor adds: “For me, it solidified the fact that I made the right choice by going into teaching.”

In an effort to recruit more tutors, Karen has opened up the PACE program to faculty and staff. She envisions adding academic coaches who specialize in specific subject areas such as calculus or advanced biology.

“Our goal is to not let this fail, to continually improve it,” she says.