PACE: Advocating for our Children through Community

PACE: Advocating for our Children through Community
June 28 12:26 2016 Print This Article



The Parent Advocacy Council for Education (PACE) is one of many programs offered by the Christina Cultural Arts Center (CCAC) in downtown Wilmington. PACE aims to improve public education in Wilmington by building a strong parent leadership movement through education policy and advocacy workshops for parents. PACE provides the building blocks for parents to advocate on behalf  of their children and influence school governance and policy making.  

Mary Pickering, Advocacy Coordinator for PACE, works on policy changes within the education system. From the moment she moved to Delaware, Pickering felt drawn to parent advocacy.  Her grandchildren attend schools in Delaware, and after hearing numerous complaints from parents, she went into the schools to get to the heart of the problem:

I learned that children weren’t getting the education they should be getting, so I decided that instead of just advocating for my grandkids, I wanted to advocate for other kids. Even though it wasn’t my kids in this school district.  It’s about the kids. They are our future. They will be making decisions for us in terms of running the country. Someone needs to advocate for them now.



And that’s just what she did. “Even after I finished the initial training sessions there was always something new. How can I make a difference?”  She began by going to city council and school board meetings, legislative sessions in Dover, and listening to speakers at PACE. She also became more than an advocate at the ground level.  She decided taking PACE’s message to Dover demonstrated a need for parents to be involved at all levels.  “Quality of education seems to be interpreted differently depending on who you are talking to.”  She wants to show the government and school leadership that every child deserves the same quality of education and that children are more than  statistics.  “My biggest issue is accountability, and as far as I’m concerned, everyone has a role to play: parents, the Department of Education, the State, principals, the teachers, the superintendent, everybody is responsible. Having the right leadership and policies in place and making sure they are followed is what matters most.” She uses the advocacy skills she acquired through her participation in PACE to promote change at all levels and she uses her knowledge to write position letters, while pushing the State to take parental advocacy seriously.  

PACE, through its numerous workshops, community support and leadership, empowers parents by demonstrating that they are not alone. While they strengthen their advocacy skills, parents learn that they don’t need to be intimidated or fear being dismissed, by government and educational institutions.

Director of PACE, S. Elizabeth Lockman, acknowledges that what helps motivate parents to become more involved is the desire to advocate for kids who have no voice–not just their children but all children. Peer advocacy plants the seeds for this motivation with parents already involved in PACE helping other parents learn how to gain a significant voice in the public schools.  “As individuals,” says Lockman ”it’s harder to play to strengths. Community equals advocacy.” Parent advocates are vital instruments for change education policy and accountability. The more knowledge they gain,  the more they come together, and together they can make change happen in their schools.  


PACE helps parents advocate and teach by example so that their children, and countless other children, will be provided access to an education with a foundation built on learning and adequate resources.  PACE recognizes that only together, with a voice strong enough to be heard, will the children of Wilmington (and the State of Delaware) attain the quality education they deserve.






Current PACE Training Offerings

Advocacy 101

Attainment Gap: Dropouts, Graduation & College Persistence

Building Relationships at School

College Access: Achievement & Opportunity Gaps

Common Core Standards, SBAC Testing & School Quality

Community Schools, Effective Schools: Trends That Affect Learning

Early Learning

Organizing 101

School Funding: Equitable Resources

School Governance: Getting to Know Policies & Policy-makers

School-to-Prison Pipeline: Discipline and Equity

Teacher Equity Gaps

Understanding “Title I”


Current PACE Presentation Partners:

ACLU-DE: Coalition for Fair and Equitable Education

Communities in Schools of Delaware

DE Department of Education

Early Learning Readiness Teams

EVI: Education Voices, Inc. (special education advocacy support)

Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League

PIC: Parent Information Center of Delaware

Representative Educators, Administrators, District-level Staff, School Board and Legislators

TeenSHARP Delaware (college preparation support)


Written By

Shoshana Kohn, Editor-in-Chief

view more articles

About Article Author