Community Services & Programs

  • Program for Academic and Cultural Enrichment (PACE)

In the 1980s, the Penn Center augmented its educational mission with the introduction of PACE, its Program for Academic and Cultural Enrichment. The PACE program fosters youth development programs for Sea Island children ages 14 months – 17 years. Instruction focuses on education, social, environmental, and cultural development and enrichment. In the addition, the program provides tutoring for 4th through 8th grade students. 

For more information about the PACE program, please send us an email at To expedite processing, please include "PACE" or "Program for Academic and Cultural Enrichment" in the subject line. 



The Gullah Geechee people are the descendants of Central and West Africans who came from different ethnic and social groups. They were enslaved together on the isolated sea and barrier islands that span what is now designated as the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor – a stretch of the U.S. coastline that extends from Pender County, North Carolina to St. John’s County, Florida and for 30 miles inland.

The result was an intense interaction among Africans from different language groups in settings where enslaved Africans and their descendants formed the majority. Over time, they developed the creole Gullah Geechee language as a means of communicating with each other and they were also able to preserve many African practices in their language, arts, crafts and cuisine.

Gullah Geechee language is the only distinctly African creole language in the United States and has influenced traditional Southern vocabulary and speech patterns. Arts and craft are the result of products designed by necessity for activities of subsistence and daily living such as making cast nets for fishing, basket weaving for agriculture and textile arts for clothing and warmth. The Gullah diet consisted of items available locally such as vegetables, fruits, game, seafood, livestock; items imported from Europe,  items imported from Africa during the slave trade (okra, rice, yams, peas, hot peppers, peanuts, sesame “benne” seeds, sorghum and watermelon), and food introduced by  Native Americans such as corn, squash, tomatoes and berries.

To learn more about the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor go to or send an email to

  • Land Use and Environmental Education (LUEE) Program

To combat the threat of rapid commercial development and land loss along the Gullah Geechee coastal communities, the Penn Center’s leadership led to the institutionalization of one very important component of community sustainability—land ownership and retention.

In 1972, Penn established the Land Use and Environmental Education (LUEE) Program to assist native islanders with issues of land retention and stewardship through education and legal services. As a result, the Center negotiated a unique landmark proviso with Beaufort County to institute an heir’s property exemption to preserve tens of thousands of acres of black-owned land. Penn also led the effort in land-use planning by working with Country officials and environmentalists to carve out zoning laws to protect and preserve valuable cultural and environmental assets on St. Helena Island and other parts of the county.

More recently, under its environmental stewardship program, the Penn Center has placed more than 250 acres of its 500 acres in a conservation easement with the Lowcountry Open Land Trust. In 1974, the Penn Center became a National Historic Landmark District.

For more information about the LUEE program, please send us an email at To expedite processing, please include "LUEE" or "Land Use and Environmental Education Program" in the subject line.