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People’s Academy for Community Engagement is poppin’

Participants in People's Academy for Community Engagement (2019)

Our People’s Academy for Community Engagement (PACE) has been “popping up” in unexpected places lately! Through the new PACE Pop-Up model, a condensed version of the program’s civics training is being made available throughout the city. PACE Pop-Ups were developed to expand access by creating a portable and free version of the training that could be brought directly to communities. It has proven to be an ideal option for residents from under-represented communities that might encounter barriers to attending the full PACE program.

The pop-ups typically happen in collaboration with other community organizations or neighborhoods. They have been hosted at neighborhood events in Little Brook and Delridge, as well as in partnership with Capitol Hill Housing, Seattle Teen Summit, Redmond Middle School, and the Seattle Youth Commission.

The most recent collaboration was with the Seattle Public Library (SPL). SPL’s Adult Basic Education Program Manager Meira Jough had heard about PACE and thought it would be a great fit for the Library’s English Learning classes. She reached out to PACE Coordinator Hilary Nichols who began building a curriculum catered to English learners and new residents. In May, PACE Pop-Ups took place in three of SPL’s English Language classes at the Central, Beacon Hill, and Northgate Libraries. The classes proved to be an excellent venue for civic education as many of the students were new to America or Seattle and came from communities traditionally under-represented in the civic process.

We recently dropped in on the PACE Pop-Up in the Beginner English Class at the Central Branch Library and met an incredibly diverse and inter-generational group of residents. In two hours, they were introduced to the basic vocabulary of civic engagement, the structure of city government, and the role that government plays in their lives. They also participated in activities that allowed them to practice using their voice to engage with local government.

Check out some photos from that evening below:

white board with the words "What is one question you have about Seattle government?" written on it
students asking questions of an instructor
two students looking at a Seattle map as the instructor speaks in the background

“I really enjoyed watching the students learn about what Council District they live in and which Councilmember represents them. Many folks didn’t know who their Councilmember was before taking the workshop, so it was great to see all the “ah-ha” moments. I also think it was impactful to teach them that you don’t need to be a citizen to participate in City government or to feel that your elected officials should represent you.”

Hilary Nichols, PACE Coordinator
two students looking at a Seattle map and sharing where they live
student working on an activity as an instructor looks on
student asking instructor a question

“The information taught in the workshop was empowering to our learners who are mostly new residents of Seattle. I believe the most impactful lesson for the participants was being reminded that their voices and opinions matter in our society. We taught them how government leaders and departments serve them, as well as the various ways to stay informed, speak out, and take action on important issues in their communities.”

Jennifer Muñoz , Seattle Public Library English Class Instructor
student reading and engaging with instructor
student reading Community Resource Guidebook
student reading handbook, looking up at instructor

“The biggest takeaway for me was how eager our students are to be good residents. It made me proud to see how genuinely invested our students seem to be in their communities and how much they want to ensure they are always aware of and aligned with the law. It was also powerful to see their knowledge grow in a way that can empower them to become a more vocal part of the Seattle community.”

Liz Wurster, Seattle Public Library English Class Instructor