What events define the 15-year odyssey of a Pace alumna back to the castle’s gates? For recently hired Associate Director of MS/US Admissions Heather Bernes ‘05, such a journey included the 1947-mile flight to Los Angeles and two Daytime Emmy awards. Regardless of what transpired along the way, however, Mrs. Bernes rightfully found her way back to 966 West Paces Ferry Road.
Having been a Pace Academy “lifer,” Mrs. Bernes offers unique insight into how Pace has changed in just 15 years. “I’d say that everything I loved about Pace still exists, but it’s just escalated and accelerated in the best of ways,” she said.
One example of such escalation is the recent creation of the Isdell Center for Global Leadership (ICGL) program. “That is one of the things that I think is particularly amazing that Pace has introduced and really gone on the run with,” said Mrs. Bernes. “We had school trips when I was a student, like I remember going to Spain in the ninth or tenth grade. It was a great trip, but it wasn’t this type of global leadership-focused, cultural immersion that the ICGL program does today.”
Other developments since Mrs. Bernes’ glory days are Pace’s STEM and robotics departments. “I wish that I had been a little bit younger, so I could have taken advantage of that,” said Mrs. Bernes. “I’m jealous!”
In addition to these advancements, Mrs. Bernes reflects on how athletics influence present day campus culture. “We had just started a girls lacrosse team when I graduated, and the football team didn’t come until after I had left, so now that I’m back on campus, I feel a renewed sense of school spirit in this way,” said Mrs. Bernes.
In spite of such improvements, Mrs. Bernes asserts that Pace’s emphasis on teacher-student relationships remains the same, evoking some feelings of nostalgia for her former days as a student whenever she walks the hallways now. She recalls how she spent her time during free periods: conversing with and seeking help from teachers. “What’s really cool is that some of my old teachers are still teaching here today,” said Mrs. Bernes. “I had Mr. [Jason] Smith for math a few years, and Ms. [Helen] Smith was obviously here then, and I had Cappy Lewis once or twice for Spanish… The fact that they’re still around proves how great of a place Pace is.”
After graduating, Mrs. Bernes went on to Charlottesville, Virginia where she had planned to get a nursing degree from the University of Virginia until she soon realized that a science discipline no longer aligned with her interests. She ended up graduating with an interdisciplinary major in media studies, politics and Spanish. At UVA, she also involved herself in a nonprofit Charlottesville radio station run by UVA students: her entrance into the entertainment world.
After graduation, Mrs. Bernes worked a few miscellaneous jobs within the industry before purchasing a one-way ticket to Los Angeles. Quickly, she was hired to work on the production side of “Let’s Make A Deal,” through which she ended up spending a few months in Las Vegas after the show’s relocation. After three seasons of “Let’s Make a Deal,” Mrs. Bernes joined the production team of the game show “The Price is Right,” where she remained for four seasons. It was through her work on “The Price is Right” that Mrs. Bernes was able to win two Daytime Emmy Awards.
“I was in LA for about eight years when I decided that the closer I got to 30, LA was not a place that I wanted to stay long term,” said Mrs. Bernes. “So I moved back home to Atlanta in October 2017 and starting working as a CrossFit coach and doing some freelance work in TV, since, you know, Atlanta is the mini-Hollywood these days.” Ultimately, though, Mrs. Bernes’ desire for a better work/life balance would motivate her to abandon the film industry altogether.
In February, Mrs. Bernes got involved with Leadership Pace through the alumni office, which is how she was reminded of all the things she loved about Pace. “Getting to come back to campus and seeing all the new developments made me feel so lucky to be a Pace alum,” said Mrs. Bernes. “It’s incredible that there was a job opening for me in admissions so quickly.”
On top of working for the admissions department, Mrs. Bernes is involved with the Jewish Affinity Group and hopes to insert herself into the middle school advisory program soon.
Top photo: In 2018, Bernes won her second Emmy Award for her work on “The Price is Right.” On Instagram, Bernes wrote in her caption “This is definitely what I call a successful trip out to LA.” Photo: Heather Bernes