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Pathways to a College Experience

The Commonwealth of Virginia is generally considered to have one of the best systems of higher education in the United States. Yet, according to the 2004 U.S. Census, almost 43 percent of Virginians age 25 and older have not pursued an education beyond high school (U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, March 2004 supplement). 

Since 2008, PACE: Pathways to a College Experience (formerly the College Mentoring Project) has been helping to address this critical issue by working with City of Richmond high school students. University students serve as mentors, working one-on-one or in small groups with high school students engaged in the college-preparation process.  In Fall 2013, PACE began working with college-bound middle school students through a partnership with Higher Achievement.

University college mentors help to address the needs of the specific organization in which they serve. Focus areas include college readiness, such as academic preparation, study skills, learning expectations in a college environment, and college access, such as researching college options and financial aid and preparing for the college application process. College mentors also provide tips about the transition to college life based on their own real life experiences.


University of Richmond college mentors can apply to serve on the PACE Action Group.  Acton Group members further the mission of PACE by planning and coordinating mentor visits to participating high schools and mentee visits to the University, planning special events and programs, and facilitating team-building among site-based teams. Action Group members are also liaisons between school-based site coordinators, University mentors, and CCE staff.

Action Group members are expected to be active college mentors both at their partner organization and through attending relevant programming on-campus and off-campus. For example, an Action Group member might attend a CCE Brown Bag discussion about the history of segregated school districts, or might choose to attend a Richmond Public Schools school board meeting.  Action Group members check in with the PACE program manager monthly in addition to the once a month PACE Action Group meetings.

To apply for an Action Group position, contact Adrienne Piazza.

Volunteer with PACE

Students who are interested in understanding issues related to college access and readiness and/or would like to work with high school students are a good fit for PACE: Pathways to a College Experience as a PACE Mentor.  PACE mentors are currently matched with students in local schools and non-profits in the Richmond region. The structure of the mentoring commitment varies depending on placement.  Depending on a student's area of interest and availability, there are multiple ways to get involved.  Details can be found on each of the partner pages listed below. PACE mentors can also serve as campus tour guides for elementary and middle school students visiting campus.

Volunteers can register for PACE at the beginning of each semester. Registration will be available the first day of classes. New mentors must attend a mandatory orientation at the start of each semester.  Please see specific partner pages for orientation details.  Mentors are also encouraged to attend issue-based programs about relevant topics, which might include college access and readiness, urban public education, secondary education, standardized testing, and adolescent development. See the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement's Brown Bag discussion series for potential events.

PACE succeeds because of the strengths of the long-term relationships cultivated between University of Richmond volunteers and community partners.

PACE mentors commit to:

  • Volunteering for a minimum of one hour a week for at least one semester, although many volunteer for multiple semesters
  • Serving on a consistent, regular basis throughout the semester
  • Observing community-partner guidelines, including dress codes
  • Maintaining mutual respect with community partners and their clients

Contact Adrienne Piazza for more information about PACE partnerships and volunteer opportunities.

Student Research

Connolly, Colleen. '14. Socioeconomic School Integration: Schools for Social Justice. Completed for American Studies: Rethinking America Education with Dr. Snaza, Spring 2012

Granderson, Stephanie. '13. Absence of Educational Parity in Richmond, Virginia. Completed for American Studies: Rethinking American Education with Dr. Snaza, Spring 2012

Huneke, Michelle. '13. Implications and Consequences of a Failed Bill: The DREAM Act. Completed for Globalization and Immigration with Dr. Walsh, Spring 2013 

Resources for Mentors and Mentees

Below is a list of resources and activity guides for mentors and their mentees.

Big Future (A College Board website)
Interactive tools for high school students preparing for college.

College Affordability Guide

College Board
Resources for SAT, AP, College Planning and College Search.

College Positive Mentoring Toolkit, Mentor Michigan
The College Positive Mentoring Toolkit was designed to provide mentors with information, conversation starters, match activity ideas, and ready-to-use activities, to help their mentees take important steps toward higher education.

Complete College Guide

Financial Aid (Affordable Colleges Online)

Five Ways Ed Pays

The "I Am The One" Campaign
This site is a gateway to learn about financial aid opportunities, find out what to do in high school to prepare for college, and explore the many career and education options that are available.

My College Dollars
Financial Aid basics and scholarship tools from the College Board.

Online College Database

Online Degree Guidebook

State Council of Higher Education for Virginia

The College Place

Virginia Wizard
Let the Wizard help you choose a career, get the information you need to pursue your career, find the college that is right for you, pay for college, transfer from a community college to a university, and get answers to your questions about your future.

You Can Go!