LOS ANGELES—For four years, P.A.C.E. (Promoting Academics through Creative Expression) has been providing encouragement and motivation to students to stay in school.

Thomas D. Heck, an employee of the Los Angeles Unified School District for over 20 years, developed P.A.C.E. in response to the district’s dropout rates.“The high school dropout rate improved slightly in California last year but rose in Los Angeles where more than one-third of students are officially classified as dropouts,” said Heck to Canyon News. “Statewide, 68.3 percent of students graduated and 20.1 percent dropped out according to data released by the state Department of Education. For the Los Angeles Unified School District, the dropout rate was 34.9 percent. Although the state dropout rate was down 1 percentage point from the previous year, the [LAUSD] rate was up by more than 3 percentage points.” Heck continued explaining, “The dropout rate and graduation rate do not add up to 100 percent because they don’t count students who get high school equivalency degrees, are still in school after four years or die.”

P.A.C.E. assemblies are free to all schools and consist of a 55-minute multimedia presentation including live performances from breaking artists, an inspirational PowerPoint presentation and a question and answer session that encourages active participation from both academic staff and students.

The PowerPoint provides an overview of the adverse effects of dropping out of school such as difficulty finding a well-paying job, a higher risk of living a life of poverty and the negative effect on society as a whole. The presentation is followed by a musical performance. The program visits an average of three schools a week, schedules two to six events per site and presents to 1,500 to 5,000 students.

P.A.C.E. has received an overwhelmingly positive response from both faculty and students alike. A majority of students commented on the program’s creative mix of entertainment and education. One student stated they liked “all the music and how [P.A.C.E.] mixed education with fun.” A 10th grader claimed the assembly made her want to have “faith in the future” and “more open doors.”

The program has been widely recommended by school administrators throughout Los Angeles. Mark Greenbaum from Sun Valley Middle School stated, “P.A.C.E. is an excellent gateway to begin the talks about the tasks ahead for at-risk youth. It is this kind of program that allows the students and faculty to generate the conversation necessary for productive discussions regarding their future.”

P.A.C.E.’s inspirational support doesn’t end once the assembly is over. According to paceshow.org, over 10,000 students have signed up to receive monthly newsletters from the organization as well as free music downloads, t-shirts, etc. The program is “poised to become the first line of defense against the increasing dropout rate within the school districts throughout California.”

Entertainers that have participated in the program include Tha New Boyz, Last Day Off, Nylon Pink, Vienne, Dawone and DJ Hustle. P.A.C.E. is sponsored by mygarageapparel.com, amazingjanitorial.com, stackstv.net and turntableu.com.