In 2007, Judge James Seals brought an initiative before community leaders to open a center that could focus on the gender specific needs of at risk girls in the Lee County area. After a group visit to the Collier PACE Center for Girls, the vision and hope for a center in Lee County became a reality. With the success of the program locally, community leaders and supporters rallied together to purchase and improve on a site tailored to meet the needs of the school and its students. On June 9th, 2014 the new center was dedicated as the L. Gail Markham PACE Center for Girls, Lee County.
Since 2007, we have served approximately 525 students (363 since 2011)
Shelby Reed came to PACE in 2013 as a junior in high school. She struggled with body image issues, regularly engaged in risky behaviors and had frequent panic attacks. Shelby transitioned from PACE almost exactly a year later; she has maintained a 3.5+ GPA, is student body president, and will likely be valedictorian at PIVOT. She has received a scholarship to attend Hodges University where she wants to pursue a degree in paralegal studies with the hope of attending law school.
Says Shelby: “PACE has made me into a better me. The impact that my fellow PACE sisters and PACE staff have had on me is hard to put into words. My life has been forever changed by my time spent at the PACE Center for Girls. When I first started at PACE I was the girl that was hiding a lot, I did not have a very pleasant past. I had stopped dreaming. I didn’t believe I was going to become anything. I felt I didn’t fit in anywhere. I also felt at the time that no one cared about me… I remember thinking “how can an all-girls school change these things?” It didn’t happen overnight, but eventually the changes took root. I learned to cope with my past through the help of my counselor. I learned from different staff members that our past doesn’t define who we become; my past motivated me to be something different. Every staff member pushed me to be my best.
"PACE has made me into a better me."
At times I was ready to give up but they would never let me. Every step of the way I knew that I had someone behind me, and I still do today even after transitioning. I began to believe in things again. I felt I finally found a place that I fit in. PACE became a home to me, and I began to think about myself differently. PACE changed me into this girl with dreams, morals, values, and beliefs. Sometimes describing how something has impacted you can be very difficult. It seems that no words are ever good enough. I encourage you to visit PACE, to see if for yourself.”
How many girls served annually? Approximately 106
What is the average age? 14.8
Why do girls attend PACE Lee? Girls attend PACE to get appropriate counseling and education in a nurturing environment. To become enrolled, they must be between 12 to 17 years old, at least one year behind in school, and have 4 or more risk factors.
What are risk factors? Risk factors are the underlying issues that lead girls to academic underachievement. These are issues such as: foster home placement, substance abuse (by girl or family member), domestic violence, incarceration of a family member, neglect, physical/emotional/sexual abuse, grief, emotional health concerns, low income, and more.
Think about these statistics…
87% of our girls were failing one or more classes prior to coming to PACE
29% of our girls had a prior arrest before coming to PACE
31% of our girls used drugs and alcohol prior coming to PACE
What kind of success do girls have after leaving PACE?
96% had no involvement with Juvenile Justice within a year of leaving PACE!
93% improved their academic performance!
76% were in school or employed three years after leaving PACE!
3800 Evans Avenue
Fort Myers, FL 33901
For enrollment referrals, please ask for:
For general inquiries please contact:
239-425-2366, ext. 2316
Sandy Stilwell, Chair -- CEO Stilwell Enterprises
Diana Willis, Vice Chair -- Jason's Deli
Mark Blust, Secretary -- The Prawnbroker Group
Sonya M. Sawyer, Treasurer -- CFO, Home-Tech Consolidated, Inc.
Douglas E. Baker, Chief of Fort Myers Police Department
Stephen Bienko, College Hunks
Noelle Casagrande-Montgomery, Chico’s FAS, Inc.
Ashley Chaffee, Office Furniture & Design Concepts
Rio DeArmond, Markham Norton Mosteller Wright & Company, P.A.
Nancy Finch, John Naumann & Associates
Dena Geraghty, Lee County Juvenile & Family Drug Court
Lisa Sands, VIP Realty-Commercial
Anne Wittenborn, Wittenborn Plastic Surgery
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