PACE college-readiness students now at SLCC

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Kesaia KefuKesaia Kefu saw Salt Lake Community College’s PACE scholarship program as her gateway to higher education.

“I never really thought about going to college until I heard about PACE,” she said. “The program was that extra help, that extra push toward getting me to college, to help me understand and open my eyes to see how many opportunities I have, where I fit into this world and where I can go.”

Kefu is one of 31 in the first group of high school students to complete SLCC’s four-year, college-preparation PACE program. The East High graduate started at SLCC in the fall. Her goal is to major in abnormal psychology and someday help people with mental, emotional or behavioral issues.

PACE stands for “Partnerships for Accessing College Education.” Its goal is to increase college participation and graduation rates for high school students. The program started in 2011 with funding from Zions Bank and 21 students from West High School. It has expanded to add East, Highland and Cottonwood high schools and currently serves 333 students at those schools. The program is funded in part by individuals and business donations.

“It’s a partnership with local businesses,” said KeyBank Utah Market President Terry Grant, who in September presented $10,000 to PACE and addressed PACE students. “We need to invest in you to continue to help our economy going forward,” he told them.

“It wasn’t easy getting the scholarship,” said Aunofo Vakalahi, who went through PACE at West High and now attends SLCC. “I really struggled my last year of high school. But what really pushed me was the knowledge that the scholarship would take care of two years of tuition so that way my parents could take care of other financial needs.