“How can you be so young and hate yourself so much? When do you decide to start drugs and drink alcohol at such a young age? When is that exact moment that you feel that you are no longer worth living? I’m not sure when I made these decisions, but I did. I was failing school, sneaking around with drugs and alcohol, and I tried so hard to cover the cuts on my arm. After a while I stopped trying.
I told myself I was meant to be this way, that God had turned his back on me and I was nothing. I was only fourteen the first time I tried to commit suicide. The saddest part of my story was I was happy to be in the dark, I didn’t have to reach anyone’s expectations, and I felt that death would be so much easier if everyone knew my life was just a waste.
Then, between November of 2012 and March of 2013 I really lost myself. I had overdosed twice and almost lost my life. That very last time, I’m not sure what changed, all I know is that it had to be a sign from God himself. I was deep in this black hole, and it seemed nothing could get through and I couldn’t get out, but that day something came through to me. It was just a dim light but once I saw it, I knew it meant I had to get there. It was a path that God had made for me, and I knew I would do everything I could to find my way out.
Throughout this entire time my mother and therapist were trying to get me on new medication and emergency therapy. I was on watch 24/7 and I saw my therapist twice a week. I was able to stable myself on medication. I wasn’t able to return to high school, but then I became aware of PACE Center for Girls. I wanted to change, there was no doubt or turning back.
There I met the women (and men) who would change my life forever. I was very open about how bad I wanted to change and was willing to do anything. Ms. Michelle, my counselor, became like a second mother, who always picked up the pieces. My teachers were so understanding that it hurt my heart to know that there were good people in this world that I’d never met before.
"My teachers were so understanding that it hurt my heart to know that there were good people in this world that I’d never met before."
My English teacher, Ms. Camille would give me her books because she knew how much I loved to read. Ms. Debbie, who became my biggest role model. Ms. Juanita, who was my biology teacher, had new things to tell me every day, and Mr. Josh, my cousin! I had these great people to support me all the way through, they never doubted, and never gave up. PACE was not only involved with me, but also helped my family and I to build our relationship back up. The hardest part of becoming this new person was the guilt that seemed to slam into me. For a long time I shut everything off and had no remorse, but as this new girl, I had to open up, and let my emotions help others understand. It was the most physical and mental pain I’ve ever experienced.
Slowly but surely I was able to forgive myself, and that was the most important part. I let God back in my heart and let him heal me and help me. I started to love myself again, and I was able to let my family love me. As of March 1st of 2015 I have been clean for two years. My God is great, he led me to PACE, and he has touched those who have come in contact with me and they have left their mark on me forever.
Yesterday I turned 18, and I am a full time student at Lakeland Senior High School, I attend Polk State College for dual enrollment, and I also take an online class. To add more to my list I am doing online training to become a shift leader for my job at Dunkin’ Donuts, and might I add that I have only been working there for four months. The girl two years ago no longer exists, and there isn’t a trace of her. The only thing that remains is the courage, and determination I had to change my life around. My family and my church, and of course PACE are my biggest supporters. I am honored to share with the world what they have helped me conquer. “Once a PACE girl ALWAYS a PACE girl.”
How many girls served annually? Approximately 108
What is the average age? 15
Why do girls attend PACE Polk? 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…
67% of our girls were failing one or more classes prior to coming to PACE
21% of our girls had a prior arrest before coming to PACE
11% of our girls used drugs and alcohol prior coming to PACE
What kind of success do girls have after leaving PACE?
84% had no involvement with Juvenile Justice within a year of leaving PACE!
96% improved their academic performance!
96% were in school or employed three years after leaving PACE!
101 W. Main Street
Lakeland, FL 33805
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