PACE Leon was the 6th center to open in January 1994. The opening of the center was a grassroots movement that began with Marge and Matt Masterman inviting founder, Vickie Burke to a Zonta meeting to talk about the PACE Program. Members of the club quickly organized an advisory board and a funding request for both state and federal funds was submitted. Jackie Wilson, the founding board chair, with the support of the Masterman’s, Bettye Roberts, Dorothy Binger, Susan Shebel, Dexter Martin and others located a building on the corner of Jackson Bluff and Lake Bradford Road for $1.00 the first year. After scrubbing, fresh paint and carpet, the center opened with 30 girls, an Executive Director, Program Manager, 3 teachers, a Therapist and Administrative Assistant. The first graduates marched down the steps in the courtyard of Associated Industries to receive their diploma in June 1995. The program quickly outgrew the building and with help of the late Judge Charles Miner, the program relocated where it is today. Since opening the center has served more than 1,000 girls.
Eileen Gonzalez-Cloud moved to Tallahassee after her family lost everything during Hurricane Andrew. Desperate to meet financial needs her father secretly started selling and using drugs, returning to a street lifestyle that he had previously left behind. Eileen’s mother was the true stronghold of the family but while she worked endless hours to support the family Eileen became the primary caregiver to her younger brother and sister. The pressure was too great and as a teenager Eileen became rebellious, engaged in substance abuse and fell in with the wrong crowd.
While she made mistakes and dealt with trauma and sadness she always knew that she could make her life different. Eileen, who now lives in North Carolina, found the help she needed when she enrolled at the PACE Center for Girls in Leon County. "When you come from a situation like my own, you need people who deeply care and are seriously motivated to help individuals," Cloud said. "Sometimes in this labyrinth we call life, you need a friend." That’s what she found at PACE.
"When you come from a situation like my own, you need people who deeply care and are seriously motivated to help individuals," Cloud said. "Sometimes in this labyrinth we call life, you need a friend."
Eileen is fondly remembered by Debbie Moroney, the founding Executive Director of PACE Leon. Debbie Moroney said Cloud is a girl she will never forget and remembers the hopeful girl who had so much potential. It is a joy to see Cloud rise above her challenges and be an inspiration.
As a PACE alumna, Eileen, who is married to professional boxer and a former IBF Light Heavyweight Champion Tavoris Cloud, said she is passionate about helping girls reach their potential through initiatives that include the American Achievers Foundation, an effort she supports.
Eileen has traveled several times between Tallahassee and North Carolina for PACE Day activities and to talk with girls currently attending the center. She has also spoken at the Capitol urging stronger policies to benefit girls served by PACE. In addition to her advocacy and philanthropy work Eileen is a mother to two beautiful home-schooled children and is a talented singer. During her last visit to the center she sang as well as spoke to the girls. "The words and the song were inspiring to me," said 16-year-old Jordan. She said Eileen's speech emphasized to her the importance of remaining strong and proud to be a PACE girl. Admiring Eileen's poised presence and warm demeanor, Jordan said seeing Eileen makes her think: "Wow, she did it so I can do it."
Eileen is currently authoring a stylized book about her life, as well as writing and illustrating a children's book. She was a student at FSU studying Psychology but opted for an online degree In Applied Behavioral Science to better support her children and husband.
How many girls served annually? Approximately 104
What is the average age? 15
Why do girls attend PACE Leon? 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...
72% of our girls were failing one or more classes prior to coming to PACE
28% of our girls had a prior arrest before coming to PACE
17% of our girls used drugs and alcohol prior coming to PACE
What kind of success do girls have after leaving PACE?
97% had no involvement with Juvenile Justice within a year of leaving PACE!
93% improved their academic performance!
93% were in school or employed three years after leaving PACE!
1344 Cross Creek Circle
Tallahassee, FL 32301
For enrollment referrals, please ask for:
Jeanna Olson, Chair
Dr. Tiffany Ardley, Vice Chair
Margo Marvel, Secretary
Tyler Harris Jr., Treasurer
Dr. Rachel Sutz-Pienta