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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
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.  

Mar
30

Pace Alumna Alivia Reflects: “I am the most resilient person I know”


At Pace, we believe communities are stronger when girls and women have the opportunity to thrive. We sat down with one Pace alumna Alivia from Macon, GA who reflected on her experience with Pace and her journey to where she is today.

How did you find Pace?

My family and I had been facing some challenges — a lot of it came from financial struggles.

My family was dealing with substance abuse and my nieces and nephew were dropping out of school.

The tipping point was the eviction, which hit me really hard. When we were forced out, the people took everything — my clothes, my laptop, all the things I needed for school, and I felt guilty. I prided myself on being an overachieving 16-year-old, and I believed I could have done something to prevent this situation.

After the eviction, we moved into my grandparents’ house. I had to adjust and refigure out everything.  When we were first there, there were 10 people in a house meant for four. After a long battle of caring for my grandmother, she passed away, another big loss for my family. I knew I couldn’t do this on my own, but I also didn’t feel I had the support I needed from my family at that time.

A mentor of mine recommended that I reach out to Pace and talk to someone.

What did you learn at Pace?

[At Pace] I learned the value of self-care. I learned my worth and how to give myself the credit I deserve. My favorite quote that my counselor Rebecca told me was: “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” She helped me reframe my circumstances and find the positive in every situation. She reinforced my determination to never give up. I learned to prioritize myself and my mental health on the path to self discovery. I am the most resilient person I know and because of Pace, I can recognize that.

Where are you now?

I’m a freshman at Fort Valley State in the cooperative developmental energy program, which is a dual-degree program where I am pursuing my bachelor’s in math and a master’s in engineering. I’ve always been a math and science person, I’ve always been good with my hands, and I love building things.

I also have a couple of businesses. I’m learning to do acrylic nails, and I’ve done some graphic design. I designed the flyers for the student government association executive board campaign, which helped the campaign win the election.

In February, you recently testified at a budget committee meeting at the Georgia State Legislature to help Pace increase funding for its programs in the state. How was that experience?

When I arrived at the legislature meeting, it set in that this was a big deal. However, when I started to testify, my nerves settled. It was interesting to see people care about my story so much. At times, I don’t realize how much I’ve gone through, because I don’t want it to define me, but my story is important. I hope it can inspire others to recognize the power of their own story.

As we reflect during Women’s History Month, is there a woman who has supported you to get to where you are today?

I would say my mentor Ms. Geneva West, who is the Founder of Real I.M.P.A.C.T Center, Inc. — an all-girls STEM organization. After I completed that program, I decided to give back. I taught coding classes, instructed curriculum involving STEM, and even coached a robotics team. Ms. West has taken me under her wing and exposed me to so many events and speaking opportunities. She’s been a really positive person in my life — even helping me through the college application process. She’s amazing.

Another person that comes to mind is my mom. I love my mom. We’ve had our ups and downs, but I’ve seen how her confidence has developed and how she’s trying every day to be better. I admire her for that. Despite many challenges we have faced, I am overly thankful to my parents for raising me to become the person I am today. My love for my family is strong, and I pray every day we grow into the best version of ourselves.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Honestly, I’d probably say, stop being so hard on yourself. You’re doing great. I’m celebrating my strengths, and I’ve learned that vulnerability is one of them. Give yourself the credit you deserve and know that you can keep pushing. Know that whatever you’re going through, you can make it through.

In 2019, Pace expanded into Georgia, offering services to help girls learn healthy coping skills, overcome past trauma and look toward the future. Teen girls who participate in the program improve their skills and ability to make safe, healthy decisions that enable them to be strong, compassionate and successful women. Learn more about the services Pace offers in Georgia.

Feb
23

Pace Day At the Capitol: Girls Reflect on Advocating for Change

In January, we hosted Pace Day at the Capitol (PDAC), our annual advocacy event in Tallahassee, FL that brings Pace girls, leadership and team members together to meet with elected officials.

This event also empowers our girls to use their voices to advocate for themselves and girls like them, in areas including education access, juvenile justice, mental health and more.

Over two days of virtual meetings, training and programs, girls learned about politics and policymaking, ways to effectively advocate for themselves, and how to authentically share their stories. They put their new skills to practice in a mock debate about summer school and the length of the school year and also spoke with state legislators to advocate for the policies that are important to them.

We sat down with two girls, Alyssa from Pace Pinellas and Jay from Pace Jacksonville, who shared about their experiences at PDAC:

Tell us about your experience at PDAC.

Alyssa: Pace Day at the Capitol gave me the chance to be heard by other girls at the Pace centers and the legislators.

Jay: Having my voice heard made me feel important and worth someone’s time. It makes me feel like there is a purpose for me and my decisions. Because of Pace Day at the Capitol, I feel like I am not alone and capable of talking to people and making a difference in today’s world.

 What did you like about the mock debate?

Alyssa: During the mock debate,I was glad to share my opinion about school being optional in the summer. I also got a chance to be heard because talking in front of a lot of people usually makes me really nervous, but because of the support from the girls in the room with me, I was able to speak in front of people.

What impact did Pace Day at the Capitol have on you?

Jay: This experience taught me that having the responsibility of using my voice is important since it can make a difference and help others. It’s important for girls like me to use their voice because in a world with many problems we need people to stand up and speak.

Alyssa: Since the Pace Day at the Capitol, I feel more confident in myself to talk in front of big groups of people. Pace Pinellas itself has also helped me with talking in front of large crowds by challenging myself and pushing myself for the better. It has helped me so much in the long run, and I’m so glad to say that everyone on the Pace Day at the Capitol meetings were supportive to the girls that were talking also.

Any words of advice for other girls interested in participating at PDAC?

Jay: Go for it. I learned a lot from Pace Day at the Capitol, so I think that it can also help other girls as well.

Through Pace Day at the Capitol, our girls embody the strength, passion and integrity to build a better and brighter world for all of us. We continue to be inspired by the growth and development our girls demonstrate to make their communities stronger for all.

Learn More

Alyssa, Pace Pinellas
Jay, Pace Jacksonville

Oct
27

Youth Justice Action Month

October is Youth Justice Action Month (YJAM), hosted by the Coalition for Juvenile Justice and the National Juvenile Justice Network.  This month, commemorated since 2008, encourages action to raise awareness and educate the public about the impact of the justice system on children.  The topics of this year’s YJAM included policies to keep youth out of the justice system, ending the treatment of youth as adults, and investing in families and communities to prevent youth detention and incarceration. 

We are proud to join the fight to create a world where all girls and young women have power, in a just and equitable society.  We advocate for legislation that develops comprehensive systems of care for girls at risk of delinquency and sexual exploitation; provides access to comprehensive wrap-around services, including well-being and mental health; and removes barriers to education and employment for girls. 

These efforts include eliminating gender and racial inequities in the juvenile justice system and ending the direct filing of children in the adult corrections system, which can lead to more serious harm and trauma.  Our focus also includes expanding the use of civil citations and other diversion programs that steer youth away from the justice system, while also ensuring these opportunities are provided to all youth equitably, regardless of race and location.  Additionally, we support expanding the ability to expunge juvenile arrest records after the completion of a diversion program, which holds youth accountable for their actions without jeopardizing public safety.

We partner with the Florida legislature and state agencies to provide holistic delinquency prevention and early intervention model that diverts girls from costly systems involvement and guides them toward a path to success at home, in school, and in their communities.  For more information about YJAM and reforming the youth criminal justice system, visit the Coalition for Juvenile justice at www.juvjustice.org and the National Juvenile Justice Network at www.njjn.org.