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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.

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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.

Aug
16

Community-Based Program Helps Girls Reach Their Full Potential

By: Aggie Pappas in partnership with The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

Originally published by The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Gender-responsive services cultivate girls’ strengths in an effort to boost protective factors in their lives and to help prevent future involvement with the justice system.

I have devoted much of my professional career to empowering girls and young women. Girls at risk of involvement in the juvenile justice system often face issues—such as exposure to violence, trauma, and mental health problems—that require a unique response, one the juvenile justice system is not well-positioned to address.

At the Pace Center for Girls we provide year-round, middle school and high school academics along with life skills, coaching, and counseling to girls who are involved in or at risk for involvement in the juvenile justice system.

The free program, which serves about 3,000 girls annually at 22 locations across Florida and Georgia, helps girls and young women heal from trauma, build prosocial skills, and reduce unhealthy behaviors.

Pace offers a comprehensive academic curriculum and social services, doubling the likelihood that participants will graduate high school, according to a 2019 study. The curriculum emphasizes a gender-responsive, strengths-based, and trauma-informed approach to help each girl cope with her past and prepare for the future. To start this transformation, we surround each girl with unconditional love, safety, and support.

OJJDP has supported Pace with multiple grants since our first center opened in 1985. Last year, OJJDP awarded Pace a 3-year, $425,000 grant to launch the Reach Counseling in Macon, GA. The grant paved the way for us to begin serving girls in Georgia, after launching the program at some of our Florida locations in 2009.

In contrast to our day centers, the Reach program focuses on behavioral counseling. Participants can receive therapy at a Pace center, at school, home, or another community site; or they can access it online. Girls can participate in group counseling as well.

The Reach Counseling program has been shown to help girls improve relationships with friends and family, improve their grades, develop concrete plans for the future, and deal with adversity. Our data also show that compared to 71 percent of program participants who had no involvement with the juvenile justice system when they started, 95 percent had no involvement with the juvenile justice system 1 year after completing Reach. The program served 980 girls in fiscal year 2020.

In response to community needs, we’ve added three new components to the Reach program:

  • New Day—A diversion and civil citation program for girls who have been arrested for minor offenses.
  • Family Strengthening—A family reunification program for girls at risk of being removed from their homes.
  • Healthy Girls—An independent transition program for girls leaving the foster care or juvenile justice systems.

While I’ve found it particularly gratifying to serve as a catalyst in the girls’ transformation, what stands out to me is their resilience. Pace has developed a proven model for providing girls an opportunity for a better future. I’ve seen it work time and time again.

Resources:

The OJJDP bulletin Girls in the Juvenile Justice System provides a statistical portrait of girls in the juvenile justice system, including trends in the demographics of this population, the offenses they committed, and how they move through the system.

OJJDP anticipates making seven awards under its fiscal year 2021 Reducing Risk for Girls in the Juvenile Justice System program. The program is intended to reduce risk factors and promote protective factors for girls who come into contact with the juvenile justice system, and place them on a path toward success.