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Meet Mary Hillman

Posted June 04, 2014 in Community Featured, Perry
Mary Hillman is the director of the PACES program. Photo by Lindsay Deitrick.

Mary Hillman is the director of the PACES program. Photo by Lindsay Deitrick.

PACES (Perry’s Academic Cultural and Enrichment Services) program is a preK – fifth grade learning center also including a skeleton project at the middle school. Its primary focus is to provide a safe academic environment year round for students of working families.

“In PACES children will engage in activities that will benefit them emotionally, physically, socially and educationally,” says director Mary Hillman.

Hillman has been part of PACES since day one when it launched in August of 2000. Beginning with just 34 kids and a laundry basket of supplies, PACES has exploded to reach thousands over the past 14 years with an average of 130 students daily.

PACES involves activities to engage students with hands-on learning. The group travels to a number of the state’s learning centers where they experience how an education can be applied to their future.

Hillman believes the interactive education the program provides shows students first hand an abundance of opportunities they can strive to reach following their education.

“Experiences like these provide a genuine wealth which is knowledge,” Hillman expressed.

The students also participate in a variety of enrichment projects.  Whether it be a craft, a science experiment, a story or learning a new game, Hillman and her support staff ensure to bring learning to life.

“I have fabulous people that work for me,” she says. Hillman credits the creative minds of her devoted team with the production of over 250 different types of camps and innumerable enrichment projects over the years. She is aided by 20-30 helpers, including certified teachers as well as students seeking part time work.

“A lot of the kids who have grown up through the program will come back and want to work.  They say this is where they’ve had the best memories,” Hillman says.

The program can be credited with influencing kids to continue their education through college and gives them a valuable place to build their resumé if they wish to seek a future in the education field.

PACES depends on many partnerships.

“How I have developed sustainability is a real diversified funding stream.” says Hillman. She commends IPTV, the city of Perry, Weiss Public Library, McCreary Recreation Center and Dallas County Conservation among other affiliates for being a critical part of the program’s success.

The Live Healthy Iowa Campaign recently awarded PACES with a $500 check that will be used to purchase new sports equipment.

Hillman is conscious of the needs of today’s families and will continue to seek ways to reinvent the PACES program to accommodate changing times.

“You can either be ripe and rot or you can stay green and grow,” she says.

All who would like to contact PACES for more information are encouraged to do so.

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