The Pace Center logo painted on its building.

Change of Pace: How One Nonprofit Brings Student Leadership to Life

Fall on campus is full of the hustle and bustle of student life. But where do students go to meet new people and learn more about themselves? Where can students become leaders? The Pace Center has just the answer.

The Pace Center is a community center and campus ministry at Virginia Commonwealth University supported by the United Methodist Church and Presbyterian Church (USA). It provides students with the tools and guidance to bring their ideas to life through programming. Rev. Katie Gooch, the director of The Pace Center, said the vision for Pace is to “equip and empower servant leaders” through building community and uplifting one another’s gifts.

One example is Stories and Lunch, a student-led, weekly event when students can eat a free meal and discuss the topic theme of the week with peers they may never had interacted with otherwise. From “Crazy Travel Stories” to “Dreaming Through the Night,” students are challenged to open up and share their authentic selves with others.

Students gathered for Stories and Lunch.

While The Pace Center is open to all, many of its recurring flagship events are a direct result of the Fellowship Program. In this program, student leaders can apply to meet weekly for hands-on leadership training, community outreach, event planning and self-reflection. The Fellowship Program provides a holistic approach to education and growth for students as they explore themselves through servant leadership.

A through line in all of its programs, The Pace Center employs Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) to make the biggest impact.

“Most nonprofits are more deficient based, but ABCD enters the community and takes a look at the assets and how to bring that to life,” Gooch said. “It encourages students to go out into the community, find people’s gifts and connect with them.”

ABCD also has helped expand the mission and impact of The Pace Center. Select student leaders have taken on the role of teaching the ABCD approach to community partners that have expressed interest.

Gooch said she’s proud Pace can “model the importance of connection, relationships and community.”

The Pace Center creates a space for young leaders to take initiative in bringing people together, and they get to walk away with new gifts of their own.

The Pace Center is located at 700 W. Franklin St. in Richmond. Visit its website to learn more.

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