End-of-the-year holidays recall the values of reflection, giving back to our community, and giving thanks to others. At UC San Diego Extended Studies, the Parent and Caregiver Education (PACE) program within the Education and Community Outreach (ECO) department, doesn't just embody these values once a year: it is built on them, and thankfulness is a guiding purpose.
For more than two decades, PACE has provided college credit courses to parents and caregivers with a focus on how to support each child in their educational journey, from Pre-K through college and beyond. The impact made on parents and caregivers has expanded to touch the lives of every family member and to whole neighborhoods. PACE, alternatively known as “Parent University,” demonstrates that it isn’t about individual efforts; it takes a team to build a college-readiness community – and that starts with parents and caregivers.
Many challenges that caregivers face are addressed in the PACE classes, which provide general education about how children develop at certain ages, while also addressing critical topics, such as the effects of social media on young minds and how to prepare for the college admissions process. Caregivers come out of these courses with an academic award from UC San Diego Extended Studies, recognizing the skills and knowledge they acquired through the program and deeming them as pre-college advocates.
The birth of the PACE program
The PACE program started in 2003 when Chula Vista Elementary School District reached out to Extended Studies asking if there were courses available to help parents understand their children's developmental path during the educational journey. What began as a response to a community's call for support evolved into a broad, community-focused curriculum, co-created with parents, schools, and districts in mind. Dr. Morgan Appel, the Assistant Dean of Education and Community Outreach, who oversees the PACE program as part of a broader interconnected lifespan learning portfolio, emphasizes the program is one way for UC San Diego to give thanks to the community by helping parents and caregivers better navigate the educational system.
“As a public university, we are privileged to work hand-in-hand back to our communities–which is both the honor and the obligation of the land-grant institution,” said Dr. Appel. “That said, we tend to learn just as much, if not more, from working with parents. It is very much a collaborative effort.”
How the PACE Program Gives Back
PACE offers a customized curriculum tailored to meet the unique needs of each community, allowing parents, school districts, and community organizations to reach out for help with specific needs. Dr. Appel and his team perform a consultation for each inquiry, posing fundamental questions to understand root issues and requirements. From the responses, they co-design and deliver a program to fit the needs of that particular environment.
Customized Learning Opportunities
Those who enroll in the PACE program receive valuable knowledge and also earn academic credit. Many also earn a certificate from UC San Diego Extended Studies, signifying their dedication and hard work in pursuing a series of courses.
The PACE program has built an amalgam of resources and people to implement the curriculum. Instruction extends beyond traditional learning by providing a variety of tools to enrich caregivers when they are not in the classroom—among them is UCTV.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, UCTV played a crucial role in enabling on-demand education in learning environments across the globe. Many instructors filmed courses that were accessible via The Education Channel at UCTV, allowing participants to better attend to the needs of learners of all ages in challenging times. ECO also published user guides in PDF to provide guidance across curated video content, which remains available today.
How the PACE Program Celebrates with the Community
PACE candidates undertake a series of courses, leading to the PACE Essentials certificate and a UC San Diego Extended Studies transcript with academic credit. Throughout the program, a team of instructors and community leaders support participants to provide individual guidance with program requirements. Upon completion, a graduation ceremony is held for completers, family, and friends, recognizing their shared accomplishments.
The event is a festive gathering, bringing completers together at local community organizations, school campuses, or an Extended Studies facility, such as the UC San Diego Park & Market campus in downtown San Diego. Borrowing from more traditional commencement ceremonies, guest speakers from local school districts, administrators and faculty from UC San Diego, and community leaders offer remarks denoting the rite of passage from student to graduate. These ceremonies are special moments, bringing entire communities together to express gratitude and make lasting memories.
The Legacy of PACE
PACE is but one shining example of what it means to give thanks and pay it forward. For over two decades, the program has been creating a ripple effect that has impacted thousands of families, dozens of school districts, and innumerable college campuses and businesses that benefit from equitable education.
“I have two children, and they are my inspiration to continue with my education,” said EJE Academies parent Josefina Ayala. “With this program from UC San Diego, we have the opportunity to get the key to a better life.”
As we give thanks, let the PACE program be a source of inspiration and gratitude—a testament to the indelible impact education can have on individuals, families, and the community at large.
To learn more about Parent and Caregiver Education (PACE), visit ecoextension.ucsd.edu/parents.
Further insights are available through this PACE panel conversation on YouTube.