By Breona Walker, CCE Fellow for Student Engagement

The Bonner Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) has been hosting PACE: Pathways to a College Experience tours for over 10 years.

The purpose of PACE tours is to expose elementary and middle school students to the possibility of a college education and to answer any questions they may have about the University of Richmond.

Over the years, PACE volunteers have given tours to hundreds of groups from the Richmond region, as well as the Charlottesville, Washington D.C., and Hampton Roads areas, and the program continues to grow year by year. Tours consists of anywhere from 10 to 200 students. Last year, 1,054 regional elementary- and middle-school students toured UR’s campus with 65 PACE volunteers.

"PACE campus tours are a way for younger children to spend time on a college campus, engage with current college students, and, often, eat in the dining hall," said Adrienne Piazza, associate director of student engagement and director of the Bonner Scholars Program. "I hope that this experience plants some seeds for their future curiosity about what college can mean to them."

PACE tour guides are University of Richmond students who have been trained to facilitate campus visits and educate groups about the University’s history and the variety of majors and minors.

"The students that lead PACE tours are also able to cater to different groups’ interests by arranging panel discussions or visits to specific areas of campus," Piazza said.

This year, Bonner Scholar and mathematical economics major McKenzie Jones, ’19, took the initiative to oversee the tours and training. Three years serving as a mentor at Youth Life Delmont showed her the importance of educational exposure to younger students.

"Working with the PACE campus tours program has added to my civic engagement and the way that I think about education in urban areas like Richmond." Jones said. "Bringing entire school groups to campus allows for more students in the Virginia area the opportunity to experience a college campus and learn more about the impact that further education can have in their life."

Many PACE tour guides also talk about their own experiences and different strategies they used to apply for college.

"We appreciate the opportunity for our students to learn about college preparation and student life," said Donald Cook from the Young Adult Police Commission.

Some schools return year after year.

This was really a life-changing experience for many of our 5th grade students and a wonderful way to assist them in beginning with the end in mind," said Liz Parker from Dumbarton Elementary School. "We absolutely hope to continue this and make it a tradition at our school."