In response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the protests after George Floyd’s death, Pace developed the “Pace Mentoring Program.”
It will serve to:
build deep relationships across ethnicities and generations
bring the gifts of local area congregants and VCU students to life
provide an opportunity for personal engagement and growth during a time of “physical distancing.”
The primary goal of this program is to build networks for students by connecting them to adults in the community, especially Richmond-area United Methodist Church (UMC) congregants, who can also help guide their civic and professional aspirations.
The first cohort of mentees will include students who have been active in Pace programs. We will work with Richmond-area UMCs to recruit approximately 100 mentors. Students who have participated in our Servant Leadership Institute – which teaches an Asset-Based Community Development model - will interview mentors and mentees to fill out their personal profile. Pace will make matches accordingly. Once matched, mentors are asked to meet a minimum of two times either in-person or via teleconference with their mentees. The Pace Center will provide training to the mentors and mentees to ensure these meetings are as effective as possible.
The Pace Center will provide a workspace with program-specific computers for students to conduct teleconference meetings with their mentors and work on other program-related assignments. We learned, during VCU’s shift to online teaching in the spring of 2020, that many students lack consistent, reliable, and safe access to computing equipment and network resources. Our VCU partners will include VCU’s Career Services Office, its Office of Service Learning, its Center for Community Engagement, and its Office of Multicultural Student Affairs. Our UMC partners will include Richmond-area United Methodist Churches and the Virginia United Methodist Board of Higher Education.
As Pace has grown in numbers and diversity over the years, we have begun to see that students without local networks are at a significant disadvantage. They struggle to connect with internships for experience and required shadow hours. They long for career advice in a certain field and have nowhere to turn. They work hard to get a degree, but without support they struggle to find the next step. Faithful members of the 68 Richmond-area United Methodist Churches are filled with the gifts that can open doors otherwise inaccessible to these students.
This program will support young adults in their vocational discernment, serve to develop relationships across races and cultures, deepen and enrich the vitality of the participating United Methodist Church congregations, and help develop public understanding of the contributions people of faith make to our greater civic well-being.
As a majority-minority institution, VCU’s student population is racially and economically diverse, and, in 2020, more than 30% of its students were the first in their families to attend post-secondary education and 32% qualified for Pell Grant funding. The students active at Pace represent this diverse community.
Low income and first-generation college enrollees attain a strong first job or enter graduate school at much lower rates than other students. Research shows building social capital is a key element in helping students make the most of their college education. The knowledge, skills, gifts, and networks our congregants offer can help our most vulnerable students break through the poverty barrier and thrive. This program will work to break down social barriers that exist between VCU students (majority-minority population) and UMC congregants (mostly white, middle-upper class). By focusing on similar career interests and passions, it allows an easy entry point for the mentee and mentor to connect and will provide an important foundation for deeper relationships to form. This program will bring to life congregants who sometimes fail to see ways they are in ministry outside of the walls of the church. It will allow them to experience ways their God-given gifts can and should be used beyond the internal work of the church.
Students on VCU’s campus are generally skeptical of organized religion. Its Interfaith Campus Ministers Association estimates that less than 2% of VCU students are engaged with an on-campus faith-based organization. Participating congregants will embody how faith can lead one to become engaged members of their community.
The budget for the 12-month pilot program is $25,000, which includes a one-time expense of $6,000 for database management system development, $2,000 for computer equipment and software, materials, and supplies, and $17,000 for part-time program support (data entry, outreach, oversight, and communications). There will be no cost to mentees or mentors; the Pace Center will supply all program management and training costs and will subsidize all expenses associated with creating a dedicated workspace that adheres to Covid-19 hygiene protocols and social distancing requirements.