PACES lands three grants for summer programming

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The PACES program — Perry’s Academic, Cultural and Enrichment Services — recently landed three grants to support its summer program, which starts in early June and ends about Aug 1.

A $21,760 grant from Arkansas-based Tyson Foods aims to improve the health and wellbeing of PACES kids in the Summer Learning Center Program by supplying nutritious afternoon snacks daily, a weekend backpack food program for students in need and funding for additional summer staff to meet the COVID-19-required social distancing guidelines.

“We’re very grateful for Tyson’s support with PACES,” said longtime PACES Director Mary Hillman. “We look forward to providing an enriching summer program for local children in Perry thanks to the generosity of the Tyson’s Perry plant.”

The United Way of Central Iowa came through with a $21,000 grant that will go toward summer staffing, field trips, scholarships and supplies — all aimed at quality programming that reduces summer learning loss for the youngsters.

“The United Way has been extremely generous with our program over the years,” Hillman said. “They gave us $5,000 last fall for snacks without my even asking, and they’ve given us thousands of dollars worth of literacy packs, with books and worksheets.”

In April the Bock Family Foundation of Perry announced an $8,000 donation to the PACES Summer Learning Center Program. The PACES program faced unique challenges during the 2020 pandemic, with enrollment dropping by half and income dropping to zero in March and April last year.

PACES also picked up the slack during the regular academic year when the Perry schools began dismissing 90 minutes early in the fall, Hillman said. The program managed to operate 12 hours a day for nine weeks without a single positive case of COVID-19 and with no students quarantined.

Hillman said she was grateful for the summer grants, which recognize the quality and importance of the Perry program.

“I think they really realized we have this really good program out here,” she said. “A lot of people look to us, and we have the right numbers. We have poverty. We have diversity. We’re a small rural community.”

The PACES mission is to foster academic support in a safe environment for students of working families before and after school. PACES activities complement students’ classroom work, with cultural enrichment, character education and fitness and nutrition activities designed to keep students engaged and motivated to learn.

Now in its 21st year, the PACES Before/After School Learning Center serves about 140 students daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. including summers. PACES was recently awarded an A+ School by the Iowa Afterschool Alliance. To learn more about PACES, visit the PACES website.

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