History of Pace

Pace Center for Girls has transformed the lives of girls and young women for more than thirty-five years. Founded in 1985 with ten girls at one Center in Jacksonville, Florida, Pace has successfully grown to annually serve more than 3,000 girls in 22 locations in Florida and Georgia.

Dedicated to changing the lives of girls through the development of critical life, health, and academic skills, Pace has created a successful and proven evidence-based model, that since its inception, has changed the life trajectory of more than 40,000 girls and is recognized as one of the nation’s leading advocates for girls in need.

In the 1990s, juvenile judges, local community members and the Florida legislature began advocating for the expansion of Pace. From 1989-1998, Pace opened 13 new locations in Florida, and from 2007-2018, opened an additional eight locations.  In 2009, Pace began piloting the Reach Counseling Program, providing counseling, case management and mental health services in partnership with schools, community organizations, and court systems to girls beyond the walls of the Centers.

Pace has contributed to significant changes in public systems and policies to benefit all girls in Florida. In the 1990’s, Pace launched a study of justice-involved girls that led to the publication of “Educate or Incarcerate”, which validated the Pace model and the need to keep girls safe and out of trouble by prioritizing prevention and intervention services. This report and subsequent reports from the Children’s Defense Fund and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, cited Pace as a national model for keeping girls out of the juvenile justice system. In 2011 Pace partnered with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and the Florida legislature to implement the framework for systems change, resulting in a 50 percent decrease in girls’ involvement in the juvenile justice system.

In 2015, the White House Council on Women and Girls recognized Pace as a prevention model for girls that should be expanded nationally. In 2019, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges recognized Pace with the Impact of the Year award for our work changing the juvenile and family court systems.

Today, Pace’s approach and advocacy have resulted in significant changes in programs, policies, and practices to benefit girls nationally.