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PACE enrolled its first students this year, with an emphasis on trauma-informed education. (PACE)
PACE enrolled its first students this year, with an emphasis on trauma-informed education. (PACE)
 By Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC, Contact
September 12, 2017

NEW BERN, N.C. – The current climate of the state and country when it comes to talk of race and civil rights is not lost on North Carolina students, and one school in New Bern is aiming to address that.

This year, the Peletah Academic Center for Excellence (PACE) opened its doors to a small group of students. Its goal is to give students tools to be active participants in their democracy, in light of recent events, and focuses on an approach called trauma-informed education.

The school's superintendent, Dawn Gibson, says the model aims to help children exposed to a range of difficult experiences.

"It is a spectrum," she says. "They're not all having traumatic histories, but we do believe, living in the culture as it is right now, like after Charlottesville, it was interesting to hear how students perceived how what happened in Virginia would impact them."

PACE is a private school with financial aid available for students. Through their curriculum, they spend three days in intense academic instruction and receive training in fitness, nutrition, character and citizenship for the other two days of the school week. A growing body of education research underscores the importance of addressing the needs of children who have experienced trauma.

Gibson says even prior to opening its doors to students, it worked with the Obama administration to research and support trauma-informed education. She adds that in addition to providing a resource for students, she believes the curriculum is making them more well-rounded citizens through empowerment.

"It is really changing how we see ourselves and see ourselves in the world, and that wherever we are, we can give something back, we can do something to help somebody else in need," she explains.

The U.S. Department of Education, under Obama, created an online, interactive website - Safe Place to Learn - to help create a positive school climate. Still in existence, it also provides guidance to help school districts protect children from sexual abuse or assault, one contributor to childhood trauma.

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