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A Promise of Support: Lanaysia’s Journey with Pace Center for Girls

Pace’s Reach Program in South Carolina is breaking down barriers and ensuring accessibility to essential mental health and academic services. Lanaysia, a senior in the Pee Dee Region, shared her journey participating in the Reach Program at her neighborhood high school, emphasizing the transformative impact of the program and the profound bond she built with her therapist, Ms. Carla.

Ms. Carla provided Lanaysia with much more than just guidance; she became a source of safety and security in Lanaysia’s life. For girls like Lanaysia, who may have faced various challenges in their lives, this connection can be a lifeline.

Ms. Carla’s message to Lanaysia was clear: “I won’t leave you.” This simple yet powerful statement conveyed a sense of commitment and dedication that deeply resonated with Lanaysia.

A typical day in the Pace Reach Program can involve individual, peer group, and family counseling and therapy sessions, equipping middle and high school girls with the skills necessary to make healthy decisions, reduce harmful habits, and enhance their overall health, wellness, and safety.

When asked about her involvement in the Pace Reach Program, Lanaysia explained that her decision to enroll stemmed from a desire to interact with other girls. The program offered a unique opportunity for her to connect with peers who share similar experiences. In Reach, Lanaysia has not only formed meaningful relationships with other girls but has also discovered a space where she can be herself, free from judgment.

When she enrolled in the Reach program, she faced academic challenges that hindered her graduation timeline. With a dedicated support team in place, she successfully realigned her academic path to graduate on schedule. While she refrains from calling them dreams, she has set ambitious goals for herself. She envisions having a big house and becoming an athletic trainer, all while caring for her family, particularly her mother and sister.

When asked what every girl deserves, Lanaysia simply responded with “love.” Her story, along with countless others, highlights how a caring community of adults, coupled with positive mental health outcomes, can support girls on their path to bright futures.


Angel is Honored as 2024 DJJ Youth Ambassador

Angel’s journey is marked by resilience. At a young age, she confronted formidable challenges that might have overwhelmed others. But Angel is not like many.

She found her way to Pace Pasco during the summer after sixth grade. When her previous middle school noticed her school attendance dropping, they suggested that she explore the option of joining Pace. Angel, though hesitant, decided to give it a try.

“During that period, my life was quite complex,” Angel reflected. “While I had maintained decent academic performance, I began to face challenges. I grappled with the temptation to skip school, turned to substances, and had many challenges at home. Additionally, my family faced chronic homelessness, compounding my difficulties.”

Angel’s early days at Pace were marked by uncertainty and adversity, but she had a fierce determination to rise above her circumstances. “My home necessarily wasn’t a safe environment and Pace provided me the safety I needed.”

“I became pregnant with my daughter shortly after enrolling at Pace and gave birth to her on the last day of school that academic year,” Angel recalled. “I was determined to get ahead academically and create a better future for my daughter.”

Pace became more than just a school for Angel; it was a lifeline that provided holistic support beyond what a typical educational institution offered. For Angel, Pace became a haven that understood her essential needs and went above and beyond to meet them.

Angel’s journey was far from conventional, but it was her unique path that set her apart. She graduated from high school at just 16 years old while working two jobs and enrolled at Florida State University, a testament to her unwavering dedication and the support she found at Pace. “Nobody in my family had gone to college. Pace taught me to care about my future.”

She proudly attributes her accomplishments to the foundation laid at Pace—a place that not only equipped her with academic skills but nurtured her emotional well-being and self-belief. “I think the most important part of Pace is the passion and the involvement of people that work there.”

Angel’s journey is an inspiration not only to herself but to everyone who crosses her path. Her story is proof that with the right guidance, a safe space to thrive, and a determination to succeed, anything is possible.

Today, Angel is a mother and a college graduate with plans to pursue a master’s degree in public administration with a focus in nonprofit administration. She knows that her journey is far from over, and she is eager to give back to others what she has received herself. She was recently honored as a 2024 DJJ Youth Ambassador.

“When I was a young girl, seeing how many people were so passionate about helping someone who needed it has really inspired me,” Angel said with a smile. “I’m hopeful one day life will come full circle, and I will be that for someone else.”

“From Pace’s founding in 1985 to today, Pace has been a testimony to every girl that there is a future and hope,” Angel concluded.


A Summer of Inspiration: Merging Art and Nontraditional Learning in Math 

Summer break is a time for relaxation and rejuvenation, but it doesn’t have to be a break from learning. Pace’s year-round programming for girls ages 11-17 is crucial as it helps prevent learning loss, reinforces knowledge and skills, and provides opportunities for exploration and enrichment. 

New this summer, Pace Polk introduced “Art in Math,” a multidisciplinary learning incentive for girls. The immersive art experience led by Chloe Lynch, Program Assistant at Pace Polk, featured a famous artist each week and showcased how art relates to math.  

“Mathematics often conjures images of equations, formulas, and rigid problem-solving,” expressed Chloe. “However, incorporating art into math lessons introduces a creative twist that opens doors to a world of possibilities for our girls.” 

By integrating nontraditional and creative learning over the summer, we can: 

  • Foster Personal Growth: Nontraditional learning can offer unique experiences that challenge our girls to step out of their comfort zones, build resilience, and develop new skills. 
  • Bridge Educational Gaps: Creative learning can address educational gaps and inequalities. For girls who may lack access to certain resources, summer programs can provide additional support, resources, and experiences that contribute to their overall academic success. 
  • Promote Social Interaction: Art often involves group activities and collaborative projects. This fosters social interaction and teamwork, enabling our girls to build strong relationships and communication skills with their peers. 
  • Explore Career Interests: The “Art in Math” activities focused on career exploration, allowing girls to gain insights into different professions and industries. This exposure can help them make more informed decisions about their future educational and career paths. 

We spoke with Cailee, 14, a student at Pace Polk, who shared that her experience in Pace’s summer learning program offered more flexibility, allowing her to pursue topics and activities that align with her passions and preferences — one of those being art. 

“I think art is fun and beneficial because you get to see other people’s mindsets,” shared Cailee . “My favorite artist that we learned about this summer was Frida Khalo, a Mexican painter known for her many self-portraits. Her dedication to art and her community inspires me. I’ve learned at Pace that it doesn’t matter what background I came from and what I’ve been in the past — that I can be myself without any judgment.” 

Every day, our exceptional team of educators, counselors and therapists, work to create inclusive spaces that help girls realize and harness their power.  

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


Music, Food, and Community: How Pace Center for Girls Celebrates Caribbean-American Heritage Month

June is Caribbean-American Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the beauty and diversity of Caribbean-American identity. Since the United States’ founding, Caribbean Americans have enriched our country, sharing history, art, music, and more.

Rose Anderson is the Career and College Readiness Coordinator at Pace Broward. Her Caribbean-British heritage is incorporated and celebrated throughout her entire department at Pace.

She shared, “I celebrate my heritage every day I get a chance to breathe. I love and celebrate the fact that I come from a culture that exudes various genres of music, artforms, clothing, food and deep-rooted history. My parents are my heroes and my inspiration and have made me into the person I am today. I listen intently and connect to their stories, proverbs and ancestral anecdotes that continue to inspire me to be true to my legacy and I unashamedly celebrate that I am a Jamaican-British-American human being.”

For Pace Leon Associate Executive Director, Kristel Avilus, educating others about her Jamaican culture goes hand in hand with celebrating her heritage. From language to food to art, Kristel is proud to center her Jamaican identity at work. Kristel says: “I announce my Jamaican heritage by having Jamaican crafts, collectibles, books, and crafts, utilizing them in conversations with coworkers, donors, community partners and girls.” These physical objects are a powerful reminder of her pride in her identity.

Carley Vasquez, a counselor at Pace Leon, reflects: “I am intentional about celebrating my Puerto Rican and Colombian culture through food and music. Some of my favorite foods to enjoy are arepas con queso and pandebono.” At Pace Leon, girls and staff celebrated Caribbean-American Heritage Month through a catered lunch from a Haitian restaurant, Port 509.

Carley enjoys listening to Bad Bunny and Kali Uchis, Puerto Rican and Colombian artists, and Kristel listens to reggae and calypso music.

For Tina Swaby, a math teacher at Pace Broward, music is all about the community. Tina enjoys attending music and food festivals year-round, noting: “It is always an awesome experience to come together as a people from different countries and backgrounds to celebrate our oneness as Caribbean-Americans as well as offer the same experience to first timers!”

Pace serves thousands of girls from different cultural heritages across Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. We are proud to create a safe and inclusive environment that recognizes and celebrates girls and team members for their rich heritages.


Together, We Have a Dream.

Our girls recognize they have an important role to play as young leaders — raising their voices to make a difference in their communities. And more importantly, they believe they can ignite future generations, as changemakers and inspiration for future Pace girls.

At a recent Pace Jacksonville showcase in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., girls shared how they see his dreams echoed in their generation. They performed spoken word, danced and used art as a means of self-reflection and recognition.

Hear from Pace girls:

I have a dream that one day the world will gather in unity and peace. We will join hands and decode the parables of the world, so it keeps us at ease. To make my dream happen, I will continue to spread charity and remind people that we are the dream, and we all have a purpose of being here. But we all have to help each other. There is no community without unity.” — Evie, Pace girl

I have a dream that one day I’ll be able to serve in my community and help all people no matter their walk in life, culture or economic position. And I will advocate for what’s right. Things I will do now to make sure my dream happens are graduate from high school, have a good attitude, focus on what I want, don’t let anything stop me and follow my dreams.” — Felecia, Pace girl

I have a dream that I will make my mom happy. The things that I will do to make my dream happen are finish school and go to the military. I will keep my dream alive.” — Zy’kariya, Pace girl

I have a dream that one day women will be shown respect regardless of the choices they make. That women can do everything that men can. That other women show all women love. Love is a strong thing in our day. Things that I will do now to make that dream happen are show each and every woman I meet love and care. I will protect women and do the best that I can.” — Kayla, Pace girl

Pace Jacksonville’s Performing Arts Club invites girls to engage, collaborate and raise their voices through music, art, dance and spoken word. The arts have a unique ability to capture stories while giving a voice to both individual and collective experiences.