On April 29, 2022, the PACE (Providing Access to Continued Education) School building was officially named the Andrea E. Archer Institute, in recognition of its founder, Andrea Archer. She is a heroic woman who has dedicated her life to building programs centered on improving the welfare of students and families in The Bahamas. Additionally, a mortgage burning ceremony took place to celebrate this new mortgage-free Institute made possible by the unrelenting fundraising efforts of the PACE Foundation with significant support from the Sandals Foundation and the Bahamas Development Bank.
In attendance to pay tribute to Mrs Archer were Mrs Ann Marie Davis, spouse of the Prime Minister, the Honourable Glenys Hanna-Martin, Minister of Education and Technical and Vocational Training, Sonia Brown, President of the PACE Foundation, family members, friends, and supporters of PACE.
“What makes Andrea stand out, is her compassion and integrity, and the ability to see light in people, in the midst of their struggle and the messiness of their lives,” said Brown. “Today we establish the Andrea Archer Institute because we have an ‘all of the above’ approach to the challenges faced by all young people in our country.”
Brown outlined some of the work completed under the PACE Program founded by Mrs Archer. “Young mothers receive an education, and are enrolled in a grant program that entitles them to a small monthly stipend that requires 90% attendance and punctuality at school, and full participation in activities.” The teens are also prepared for job readiness and placement and are assisted with transportation, childcare and food. The goal is to ensure continued education and success. After childbirth, they return to a new school for a new start.
“When you help a teen mother – you help the nation,” said Mrs Archer at the ceremony. Her journey started in 1969 when as a community nurse and Medico-Social Counsellor, she introduced a program for teen mothers which later became known as the Student Mother Clinic, which offered counselling and school placement services. In 1984, the Student Mother Continued Education program emerged, evolving in 1993 to PACE – Providing Access to Continued Education, the name which Mrs Archer’s then 11-year-old daughter Tara, created.
Mrs Archer is charming, down to earth and tenacious. She holds many degrees, was a Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, and has a no-nonsense style. “The journey has not been easy. Many feet began this journey with us, to give pregnant students a second chance. It took courage, stamina, and fortitude to act despite the negative criticism and vilification,” she said. Mrs. Archer acknowledged the dedication and hard work of the PACE Foundation, and many partners, including the MOE, Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development, Ministry of Health and Wellness, family members and donors who have given overwhelming support during the past 53 years.
Half a century later, PACE has positively affected the lives of thousands of young women and others who have helped build our nation. This was shared by the Hon. Minister Glenys Hanna-Martin who dubbed Mrs Archer a Hero. “You told us, that their lives mattered and there was a future waiting for them.” Hanna-Martin told the audience that she recently met a young lady who was graduating from the University of The Bahamas, a PACE alumna, whose son was now 9 years old.
Mrs Ann Marie Davis was delighted to be part of the day’s event. “In the last decade, I have completed a lot of social work and heard a lot about PACE and young ladies in the program. A tea party a few years ago was held in their honour; I saw these young ladies who were beside themselves with joy and knowing that they have another chance to continue the life they wanted to lead. This is what PACE is all about… PACE allowed them to accomplish their dreams.”
Through the doors of PACE, have emerged many nation builders, doctors, lawyers, educators, an engineer, accountants and many entrepreneurs Andrea Archer herself a nation builder was ahead of her time. Mrs. Archer shares, “In the home, parents have to let the young girls know how precious they are and how important they are – so they don’t fall prey to illicit admiration, or people preying on their gullibility and naivety. Most parents have difficulty explaining family life and sex education to their children. They need to do this or those pre-adolescents may listen to their peers, to what’s on social media and veer in the wrong path.”
When asked about society’s judgmental views, she responded, “The facts are that some of those girls are not promiscuous; there was sexual assault, and they chose not to have an abortion; Some of the young ladies were preyed upon or were naïve concerning pregnancy. They had cousins or uncles who sexually assaulted them and there were cases of incest.” Mrs Archer asked that we not judge, and that we are kind and assist them, to allow healing and the possibility of a brighter future for mother and child.
The Andrea E. Archer Institute (AEAI) initiatives include a Train the Trainer program for counsellors who work with young males. The Mom Plus program provides support to mothers in their twenties, regardless of whether they previously enrolled in PACE. Contrary to popular belief, this age group is where the bulk of unplanned pregnancies occur, and the AEAI has created a vehicle to provide much-needed support. Sonia Brown adds, “The jewel in our crown, is the Character Day and Hidden Heroes initiatives that promote a national conversation around good character, especially, self-esteem and ultimately, decision making, that we often find lacking in teenagers. This is also a part of our pregnancy prevention strategy.”
Moderator Dr Ruthmae Sears, a PACE Foundation board member said of Mrs. Archer, “She is a phenomenal woman driven by a vision to catalyze change and promote equitable and inclusive educational opportunities for teen mothers in The Bahamas.”
For more information about the PACE program at the Andrea E. Archer Institute visit: http://www.pacebahamas.com
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