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Aug
23

Celebrating Women’s Equality Day

August 26 marks Women’s Equality Day, a day celebrating the anniversary of the 19th amendment, which prohibits states from denying the right to vote on the basis of sex. At Pace, many of our girls are excited to exercise their right to vote for the first time in this year’s midterm elections.

Brynassia, a senior at Pace Polk, believes that voting is an important way for women to share their opinions and beliefs. “We should take advantage of voting because people really fought hard for us to vote to this very day,” she says passionately. 

Civic engagement has helped women overcome systemic barriers to equality. Research tells us that women, especially women of color, are more likely to vote in favor of stronger healthcare, housing, education, childcare, and anti-poverty programs. In addition to providing community, trauma-informed care and academic support, Pace encourages our girls to lift their voices through civic engagement and creative expression. 

Josalin, a 10th grader at Pace, shared that she found her voice since joining Pace. “I believe voting is important because it gives everyone a voice, and it helps level the playing field. It’s not just about voting – it’s the act of having something that everyone else can have and sharing equality,” she says.  

Although she’s not eligible yet, Josalin looks forward to voting when she’s eighteen. “I’ve always been excited to vote and put my own opinion out there. Being here at Pace makes me excited to shape the future as it comes.” 

Brynassia and Josalin learned about Women’s Equality Day through their education at Pace. Learning about the fight for equal rights and inclusivity is just one of the many ways that Pace teaches our girls that their voices and goals are valid. 

Josalin shared a bit about the Women’s Equality scrapbook art project in her Spirited Girls class. Each girl will choose an inspirational woman and write about how they have impacted their community. Josalin chose the Queen of England because she was “inspired by the monarch’s support for inclusive laws that uplift women.”

“The beauty of the Spirited Girls class is that we can explore all creative avenues. Our girls begin to feel better about themselves when they feel like they have a special talent – whether it’s poetry, art, or other means of expression. They find the power to lift their voice and express themselves,” says Michelle Taylor, who teaches the class.  

Josalin takes the creative aspiration she developed through Spirited Girls seriously. She wants to be a fashion designer who makes inclusive clothing. “I want to study design and fashion, but after that, I want to start my own business making clothes. I want to design clothes that anyone can wear. […] Clothing that a boy can wear and someone non-binary can wear,” she shares.  

Most notably, Pace reminds our girls that they have a supportive community behind them on their journey toward greatness. Brynassia tells us that “there are times where I’m probably goofing around with the teachers, but when I have a serious conversation that I want to talk about, they’re all ears, and everybody’s listening […] because I know they care about what I want to say.”  

Before joining the Pace community, Brynassia struggled with behavioral health and needed a safe and loving environment for healing and self-discovery. Today, she aspires to attend college in Alabama and become a registered nurse to help women deliver babies. The affirmative care she received at Pace helped guide her passion for helping others. Brynassia can achieve her goals today because of the progress made by women over the last 122 years.  

As she looks toward her future, Brynassia thinks back to when she first joined Pace. With a grin, she says, “ever since [I joined Pace], I’ve just been doing great.”  

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Are you a girl who’s interested in Pace? Know a girl who may benefit from our programs? Click here to learn more about life at Pace and how you can enroll.  

Aug
02

Mental Health Matters: Pace Center for Girls, Collier at Immokalee Helps Girls Look Towards the Future

Published in Old Naples News Aug/Sept/Oct 2022 Edition

Before coming to Pace Center for Girls, Collier at Immokalee, Kimberlee began to see her world unravel — and with it, her mental health. She slowly started opening up to her therapist, Ms. Jama, and together they created a strong partnership and plan grounded in trust and care.

“The mental health needs in Immokalee are significant. The stigma is real everywhere, but especially in this community. For many girls, coming to Pace is one of their first opportunities to learn about mental health and to see what self-care is,” shared Jama Thurman, Social Services Manager at Pace Collier.

Without support, many girls, like Kimberlee, can struggle to find the best path forward and consequently develop harmful coping mechanisms that hinder their journey to a brighter future.

“People should give therapy a chance. Therapy has helped me find my confidence and motivation in life,” shared Kimberlee. “I don’t talk to many people about my personal life, but I talk to Ms. Jama and she helped me.”

At Pace, we believe all girls, regardless of their story, deserve safe and supportive spaces to heal that help them to become strong, compassionate and successful women. Our exceptional team of counselors, therapists and educators take into consideration each girl’s unique strengths, experiences as young women, and history with trauma when creating their individualized plans of care.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health challenges were the leading cause of disability and challenging life outcomes in young people, with the Surgeon General Reporting in 2021 that up to 1 in 5 children ages 3 to 17 in the US have a reported mental, emotional, developmental, or behavioral disorder.

Complex mental health challenges must be met with a multifaceted approach to support, which is why Pace’s model is designed to meet girls where they are both physically and developmentally.

“Part of the work we do here at Pace is to help girls find their voice. This is a huge part of any girl’s mental health journey,” shared Vitina Monacello, Therapist at Pace Collier. “For our girls, it’s really owning and embracing their stories in full context. It’s not disowning the difficult emotions or the hard things that’ve happened to them, or the struggles they’ve had. It’s finding their voice in all of that and making sense of their story for themselves so they can move forward.”

Beyond the pandemic and the added stressors this brought on, the adolescent and teenage stage is one of great transformation, both physiologically and psychologically. Navigating this crucial stage of development can be difficult and requires guidance, support, empathy, and safety.

“I found something at Pace that you can’t find at other schools. I found a family that cared about me and my future, and I believed I could do whatever I set out to do. I found an extension to the family I already had that was uplifting and a positive driving force in my change for the better. Like countless girls before me, I found myself as well,” shared Prescilla, a Pace alum.

Sometimes just asking a girl how she is doing can be a crucial step to prevention or to beginning a healing journey. If you know a girl who could benefit from Pace’s programs, please visit here.

Aug
01

Pace’s Reach Program Is Tackling The Youth Mental Health Crisis By Closing The Gap To Care

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health challenges were the leading cause of challenging life outcomes in young people, with the Surgeon General Reporting in 2021 that up to 1 in 5 children ages 3 to 17 in the US have a reported mental, emotional, developmental, or behavioral disorder.   

Exacerbated by issues like the COVID-19 pandemic, inequality, and economic instability, this crisis is being driven in part by young people’s lack of access to mental health services. Unfortunately, this disparity is even larger for BIPOC communities.  

The Pace Reach Program is working to help bridge the gap to care by bringing mental health support to girls ages 11-17 at home, school, through their communities, and online.  

To illustrate the impact of the Reach Program, we spoke with Kamiah Moore, a junior at Alfred Rush Academy in Florence, SC where she spends two days a week in the Pace Reach Program.  

“Mental health is one of the most important things in the world,” said Kamiah, “without your mental health being stable, nothing else in your life is going to be stable.”  

Kamiah’s wise words reflect the growth she has experienced during her time within the Reach program. In previous school settings, Kamiah struggled with behavioral issues. It wasn’t until Pace that she found her footing and reclaimed her mental health.  

“You feel like you have voices behind your voice when you’re in the Pace girls group,” Kamiah says, while reflecting on the relationships she’s developed. “When you’re here, you build a family. It’s a comfortable space where you can talk to people.”  

Addressing the youth mental health crisis requires a multi-faceted approach that meets youth on their terms. In Kamiah’s case, the gender-responsive and trauma-informed approach used by the Reach program speaks to her unique needs, especially when compared to her previous school experiences. 

“When I first got to alternative school, I was the only girl in my high school section, so I was just with boys all day,” she said. “After being put in the Pace girls’ group, it helped me with my communication skills and my mental health a lot. When I started coming to the girls’ group, I started paying attention, talking, and getting everything off my chest. It started helping how I felt about myself and the way I wanted to carry myself.” 

Kamiah isn’t the only one proud of her growth in the Reach program. Her counselor, Kristen Harrell has been working with Kamiah every step of the way and is no stranger to the challenges Kamiah has faced.   

“I call Kamiah my Beyonce because she is a star,” said Kristen. “I’ve been able to connect so well with her and the other girls because I was once in their shoes. Growing up in Florence I got written up and kicked out of school. We didn’t have something like the Pace program and the safe space it provides.”  

Whether they’re quoting TikTok memes, listening to Kamiah’s favorite artist Billie Eilish, or getting serious about Kamiah’s needs, the pair are a great example of the power that individualized support can have on a girls’ life.  

For millions of girls like Kamiah, cost, distance, and lack of awareness act as insurmountable barriers to accessing the most essential of resources: a safe, judgment-free space. As Pace continues to expand our Reach programming, we do so with the mission of connecting girls with the resources they need to realize their full potential, regardless of who they are, or where they live.  

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.