PACE program’s second year focuses on easing transition for re-zoned students

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala.-- Some Huntsville city students will see some big changes this upcoming school year. Because of a desegregation order, classrooms could have some unfamiliar faces in them. A partnership between the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club hopes to make that transition easier with the PACE program.

As a new school year closes in, kids are still adjusting to the rezoning of city school districts. President of the Heart of the Valley YMCA Jerry Courtney said the PACE program at Camp Cha La Kee is set up to help ease that transition.

"That they become ambassadors at their schools to help you know break down barriers as a lot of new kids start to come in, and be mixed for the first time in a school setting together," he said.

Camp bonds are strong ones. For eighth grader Jamari Tate, the PACE program has provided him with new friendships he wouldn't have otherwise.

"When I first came to the camp, I really didn't know anybody but two people. So when I came to the camp, I had to actually try to get to learn, get to know people."

The PACE program puts a strong emphasis on leadership. The hope is that the students who participate can be an example for their peers. Huntsville Junior High teacher Lauren Woltjen has seen this first-hand.

"Students can come from whatever background, but when they come here they all know they're going to the same place, they're going to go into the school and make a positive impact on every student," she said.

Students said they're excited to get back to school and make a difference, showing others what can happen when they work together.

More than 50 students took part in this year's PACE program. Blossom Wood, Jones Valley, and Huntsville Middle School were among those who participated.