By: Jeremy Logan
For students with disabilities or barriers to employment, PACE (People Accessing Careers and Education) is the place for integration. Ever wonder what the Log cabin across the street from the main campus is? Well that is PACE-SEER, a program developed by two women whose intent was only to help students with reading skills. Since its inception PACE has grown into much more than that.
As of this spring, PACE offers 31 different classes that range from sign language to leadership that cover the following: job skills, communication skills, life skills, computer work, sign language, and reading.
According to their literature, “PACE serves individuals through Spokane County Community Services/DDA (Developmental disabilities Administration), DVR (Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, Spokane County Mental health programs and high schools, and individuals that do not have a funding source as well.”
Linda DeFord is the Assistant Dean for PACE services and has been with the program for 26 years. “PACE services is a non accredited educational and employment program for folks that have significant challenges,” DeFord said. “We get students ready for employment.”
Employment is the main focus for PACE Services. Providing for adults with disabilities, the tools necessary to become productive members of society so they may be able to obtain and maintain employment.
“They are enhancing and learning skills because we believe in lifelong education, with the ultimate goal being employment,” DeFord said.
The students at PACE are not simply dumped off at a job and told to sink or swim. PACE also assists in job retention by providing regular on-site visits, phone calls to employers and participants, and performance evaluations.
“We focus everything we do around employment because with alot of our students finding employment is difficult,” Deford said. “We have employment specialists that help students find jobs in the community.”
“We really focus on employment readiness skills, but at the same time we want the students to have access to their communities. We want students to have a college experience,” DeFord said. “A lot of our students would never have that opportunity but they are given that opportunity through the community colleges of spokane.”
Here at SFCC, the students of PACE are given access to the game room, all the activities, and are encouraged to be participants in the Spokane Falls community.
Some students even go as far as to transitioning to credited classes with SCC.
“We do have a couple a year that will transition to the campuses of SCC, which doesn’t sound like a large amount but when you look at the caliber of students in our program,” DeFord said, “most of our students qualify for services through developmental disabilities administration, so they have some sort of developmental disability. So for them to take credit classes on campus is huge.”
As part of their leadership skills class students come up with ideas to give back to the community through service work and fundraising for various charities.
“We have done fundraising for the guild school penny drive,” DeFord said. “We donated to Project Hope, a west central community. They train youth in growing gardens, business skills, and some job skills. So we partnered with them and some clubs at Spokane Falls to do this fundraiser.”
On June 5, PACE will be performing a talent show in the Student Union Building, where the students of PACE will get a chance to showcase their talents and take donations of nonperishable items for the Spokane Falls Food Bank.
“We believe in service learning and giving back to the community,” DeFord said. “We are grateful to Spokane Falls and what they do for our students so we are doing this as a service learning project.”
Then on June 17, at 1:30 in the Student Union Building, the students of PACE will be celebrating the end of the school year. Several students will talk about what PACE has done for them, what their life was like and what it is like now.
“Thats always fun. Students perform and talk about what they have learned at PACE Services,” DeFord said. “It’s a jam packed room, it is a lot of fun, and it’s open to everyone.”