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Jun
23

Pace Graduates Share Next Chapter and Parting Wisdom

Pace Center for Girls, Lee recently celebrated the hard work and accomplishments of eight Pace girls, their largest graduating class.

The ceremony is a huge milestone achievement for Pace girls, who have overcome various personal and academic trials in order to complete high school.

Embellished in glitter and bold colors, each girl’s graduation cap was personalized with an inspirational message that reflected on their own individual journey. One cap read “with patience you grow, you heal, and you learn,” while another one quoted “girls with dreams become women with vision.”

Priority Marketing President and Chief Creative Officer Teri Hansen delivered the commencement address and special messages to each Pace girl before graduates took the stage to receive their diploma and custom gift, followed by a tassel ceremony.

“All of us have chapters of struggle or chapters of pain, as well as chapters of triumph and chapters of defeat,” stated Hansen during her speech. “The key is understanding that no one chapter is the entirety of our story, and as long as we live and breathe, we have the ability to write a new chapter and make our story better.”

Turning the page to their next chapter in life, these inspiring young women shared their parting wisdom and words of encouragement to help guide the next girl who finds herself in similar shoes.

Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?

“It’s okay to cry and talk about your feelings.” – Alexis

With the help of Pace, Alexis was able to transform her life, both physically and mentally. She plans to pursue a career in the real estate field, with her newborn daughter as motivation by her side.

“Be confident and love yourself.” – Alicia

Through tremendous strength and support, Alicia paved her way to becoming a first-generation college student. She has already started college courses and plans to pursue a career in the medical field.

“Be proud of yourself.” – Ciera

At Pace, Ciera was able to shift her mindset and overcome negative self-talk. Her next chapter includes continuing her education to pursue a career in the medical field.

“You can do whatever you put your mind to.” – Dallise

Pace helped Dallise see her full potential and achieve a happier life. Her sights are set on a career in cosmetology or with a veterinary practice.

“If you believe in yourself, anything is possible.” – Destiny

At a time of anger and rebellion, Destiny found the support she needed to transform into a confident young woman and dream big. Her plans are to pursue a career in her passion of cosmetology.

“Everything happens for a reason.” – Piper

Piper thrived at Pace and studied diligently so she could graduate early. She plans to pursue a career in emergency medical services.

Jun
22

Safe Spaces: “There is nothing more secure than a place that allows you to become a better version of yourself.”

Every girl has the right to feel physically and emotionally safe.

Jalia, a Pace Miami girl who aspires to become a doctor, reflected on her definition of ‘safe space’ and shared: “When I come to Pace, I feel more of a homey vibe. I come to Pace, and I feel comfortable. I don’t feel scared to be here.”

At Pace, we incorporate self-reflection and mindfulness into curriculum and encourage creativity as a means of self-expression. Unique to the Pace model is “Spirited Girls,” a dedicated class that offers girls gentle guidance and supports their self-discovery and growth. The curriculum focuses on the developmental needs of girls, life and vocational skills, diversity, spirituality and empowerment.

“It’s not like other schools have classes like Spirited Girls. So, it’s unique. The class is different, so it should be a different environment,” shared Alexis, a Pace Miami girl in eleventh grade.

Jalia and Alexis’s reflections — along with the 80 girls who attend Pace Miami — inspired a dynamic cohort of 10 leadership Miami professionals, known as Genesis 305, to revamp and enhance Pace Miami’s Spirited Girls classroom.

“Due to the short time frame of our project, we were unsure that we would gain the necessary funds to put the Spirited Girls classroom together. But as we as a team continued to tell the story of Pace, more and more people saw the dream that we had for the program, and the support from the community blossomed,” shared Jessie Caceres, Events & Communications Specialist at Chapman Partnership and member of Genesis 305.

Through involvement with the Miami Chamber of Commerce, the Genesis 305 team remained steadfast in their efforts to fundraise for Pace Miami and immerse themselves in Pace’s vision.

“All of the furniture was donated for the classroom which gave us the opportunity to catapult the rest of the project to not only focus on the classroom but the school itself. It’s been an incredible experience seeing the power of community work towards this common goal,” noted Jessie.

Genesis 305 ultimately fundraised over $61,000 to support the project — accomplishing well beyond their goal. The team coined the term ‘heart work’ and repainted the entire Pace Miami building, partnered with a local muralist to develop a mural inspired by Pace girls, provided building repairs, and donated new technology.

“Pace taught us that girls learn differently, they need the space to thrive, to create, to process and decide who they will become when they leave. There is nothing more secure than a place that allows you to become a better version of yourself,” shared Ekaete Ikpeinyang, member of Genesis 305 and Director of Clinical Nursing Operations & Integration at Jackson Health System.

If you’d like to contribute to Pace’s Spirited Girls programming, or would like to learn more about how to get involved with Pace, visit: Get Involved | Pace Center for Girls 

Jun
17

Safe Spaces: Culture. Arts. Reflection.  

At Pace Center for Girls, all girls have the opportunity to engage in exploration, self-discovery, creativity and choice. Being embraced by a trusted community is an empowering moment in a girl’s life and is an important part of the Pace journey for many girls. 

When Pace girls begin to realize their inherent power, they discover a path to take charge of their own stories and futures. 

“I lift my voice every day,” shared Thomari, a Pace Polk girl. “Pace has given me that power. I don’t have to hold everything in or hold grudges, I can be the person that I am.”

We are striving toward a world where all girls can live freely in their power because we know this has not always been the case.

At a recent Jacksonville showcase in celebration of Juneteenth, Pace girls lifted their voices and used art as a means of self-reflection and recognition of the date that marked the end of slavery in 1865, two years after the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

“Each girl who presented at the Juneteenth showcase exhibited courage and focused on their strengths,” shared Chantell Miles, Executive Director of Pace Jacksonville.

Tay, a Pace Jacksonville girl, reflected on her power with a poem: “You held your head up high and refused to let it fall. You woke up each day and gave it your all. Because deep down in your heart, you knew you wouldn’t fall. I hope you keep fighting because life will get better. You always find sunshine despite the rain. Keep your head up and remember who you are. Always remember, Tay, you are the star.”

Aubrey reflected on her experience learning about Juneteenth and presented a flag that illustrates a Rosa Parks quote: “I believe we are here on the planet Earth to live, grow up and do what we can to make this world a better place for all people to enjoy freedom.” 

In addition, Aubrey shared a traditional textile weaving she created in Spirited Girls, a unique class at Pace that offers girls gentle guidance and supports girls’ self-discovery and growth.  

“In Spirited Girls, we discussed the meaning of each color with the understanding that every aspect of the color and design is attended to communicate. Each of the colors holds its own meaning. The colors are red, purple, green, gold, black, blue and white. The colors are symbolic with ancestors and spiritual awareness,” shared Aubrey. 

To close out the talent portion of the showcase, Synayah sang ‘Freedom’ by Beyonce and noted, “Juneteenth means to me that everyone has an opportunity to be themselves and express themselves without any negativity.”  

Pace’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion empowers every girl to find and use their voice to create a positive impact in their community and the world. 

May
26

Creating a Culture of Health and Well-Being

Pace Center for Girls is a proud recipient of the Healthiest Companies Platinum Award presented by the First Coast Worksite Wellness Council. The award recognizes Pace’s dedication to creating a culture of health and well-being.  

“Our staff cannot care for our girls unless we care for them first,” shared Yessica Cancel, Chief Operating Officer at Pace. “Our focus on health and wellness represents an investment in our staff that goes beyond their time at work.”  

Pace’s leadership team is committed to investing in resources that support team members holistically. In addition to PTO benefits, team members receive a week off for wellness annually. This year an added benefit at no cost to team members is Modern Health, a mental well-being platform offering therapy, coaching, and self-guided courses all in one app. 

“Pace does an amazing job of assisting in well-being so we can fill our cups,” shared Lena Neal, Academic Manager at Pace Manatee. “We need to be our best selves for our girls and to do that we need to care for ourselves.” 

Company-wide actions and care, described as Pace Fit Wellness Challenges and Incentives, are designed to reset, refresh, and reinforce team members’ minds and spirits. To celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month, we asked team members what mental health means to them. 

“I practice mental health and well-being by reading and spending time with my favorite people. I walk every day; it helps me clear my head and unwind,” shared Barbra Burt, Contracts Analyst at Pace.  

Looking for a few easy habits to help build your mental strength and resilience? Find a series of personalized meditation tools developed and narrated by Naomi Osaka, made available for free by our friends at Modern Health. 

Pace Jacksonville Team Members at Open House Event. Photo: Tammi McGriff
May
17

A multifaceted approach to care is essential to supporting girls. Here’s why.

When the pandemic started, Brianna began to see her world unravel — and with it, her mental health.  

Brianna loved going to school to be with friends. Although she didn’t love schoolwork, her social life helped her thrive. With schools closing due to the pandemic and more time spent at home, Brianna’s relationships began to suffer. Formerly extroverted Brianna now felt shy and reclusive.  

At her new school, a counselor connected her with Pace. When she first entered Pace, she was nervous but found that the size of the classrooms and hours of the program fit her needs. Through wrap-around, personalized behavioral health support, Brianna has taken control of her mental health journey and developed healthy coping mechanisms. She actively engages with Pace programs designed to provide support, such as TOPs — a teen outreach program — Girls Leadership Council, and has taken up running and drawing as hobbies.  

Today, Brianna is thriving as a Pace girl in Palm Beach.  

As we observe Mental Health Awareness Month this May, stories like Brianna’s — and the untold millions struggling with similar issues amid a growing youth mental health crisis — should be our call to action to take much-needed steps to support our girls and young women.  

“Mental health is the center of gravity,” said Heather Blaise, a Pace Reach program manager in Palm Beach. “Finding the support to value yourself and know yourself is foundational to living to your full potential.”  

Heather, who shared her perspective sitting next to Brianna in a Palm Beach classroom, sees firsthand the value that a community-first approach to mental health support can deliver.  

“The Pace Reach Program is designed to be community based — to go outside of the Pace day programs and meet girls where they’re at: in their schools, in their homes and in their communities,” she said. “Our goal is to ensure that things like transportation and finances don’t become a barrier to providing the behavioral health services that girls need.”  

Barriers to access is a significant consideration in improving mental health care. Ripple effects of the pandemic including economic troubles, isolation and health problems are compounding issues that girls were already struggling with while navigating their social lives, their education and changes in their bodies. When these challenges are coupled with barriers to access, girls are left with limited places to turn.  

Complex challenges such as these must be met with a multi-faceted approach to support, which is why Pace programs are designed to meet girls where they are both physically and developmentally.  

In addition to programs like Reach, Pace employs a support system throughout our holistic approach that addresses three key pillars, including: 

● Gender-responsive: We understand girls’ unique perspectives and tailor our approach to their lived experiences.

● Strengths-based: We talk with girls about what they love and help them advance those skills.

● Trauma-informed: We know that traumatic experiences can be at the heart of behavioral issues. Approaching a girls’ lived experience with empathy and compassion is critical to healing.

“People think there is only one way to address mental health issues,” said Brianna, “but when they become more educated on the topic, they can begin to understand mental health on a deeper level.”  

Brianna’s words reflect our beliefs at Pace: positive mental health outcomes begin with communication, education and support. Every day, our exceptional team of counselors and therapists work to create safe, inclusive spaces and help girls realize and harness their power. Sharing this ethos is key to helping girls across the country navigate the ongoing mental health crisis.  

As Brianna and Heather sat together in the classroom discussing their unique perspectives on mental health, one thing is clear: there is no substitute for genuine connection and care.  

If you have a girl or young woman in your life, Mental Health Awareness Month is a great time to check-in with her. Sometimes just asking someone how she is doing can be an important step to prevention or to beginning a healing journey. If you know someone who may be a good fit for our programs, click here to learn more about Pace.