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Jan
13

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.

Dec
19

Once a Pace Girl, Always a Pace Girl

Destiny is a former Pace Polk girl who overcame significant adversity in her journey from young woman to a substitute teacher, mother, and recent college graduate.

As a young woman Destiny described herself as “being allowed to do whatever I wanted,” raised in a household where her parents didn’t provide direction or guidance. The lack of structure and support led her to struggle in a traditional school setting.

Expelled from Sleepy Hill Middle School, Pace was the only option for school that Destiny was given. As an 11-year-old – the youngest girl in her class at Pace Polk – Destiny described the environment she found there as a sisterhood.

“I remember Miss Susan teaching me about my period and how to properly brush my teeth and what we should do if we didn’t have toothpaste, because she knew a lot of us didn’t,” Destiny recalled on her early time at Pace, pointing to how her experience helped her to build foundational skills she wasn’t getting elsewhere.

“It was rough,” Destiny shared. “Pace was full of girls just like me, so it was nice to not feel so alone.”

Destiny completed her sixth-grade year at Pace and afterward tried to go back to traditional school settings but found they didn’t fit like her experience at Pace had. She attempted different schools, dropping out a total of four times before she landed back at Pace.

Upon returning back to Pace, Destiny was able to focus and completed the rest of her middle and high school education. Reflecting back all these years later, Destiny recalls a teacher, Mrs. Laura, who provided her with a cap and gown at the Pace graduation ceremony because Destiny couldn’t afford her own. “It was like that one moment at the end of the year that will stay with me forever.” Destiny acknowledges that this simple act of kindness helped shape the person she would later become.

After finishing high school, Destiny focused on further establishing herself with her newly found skills. After 10 years, she turned back to education, graduating in 2021 from Hillsborough Community College with her Associates of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice.

“Two years ago, I was hired by DCF at their Lakeland office. It was the first real job I ever had. Of all the people in the world I thought to share my good news with, I thought of my Pace social worker first. I tried to find her on social media, because I was just so proud of what I had done. She had such an impact on me that after more than 15 years without contact I wanted to share the good news with her first.”

Today Destiny is a substitute teacher, a wife, and a mother of two who is continuing on in her higher education journey with plans to pursue a law degree through Florida State University and subsequent graduate programs to become a lawyer. She drives a minivan, noting the enduring symbol of suburban normality, and admits, “I am not anything like you would expect someone with an upbringing like mine to be, and Pace should be credited with that.”

Reflecting on how Pace has impacted her relationship with her daughter, Destiny shared: “There was a Christmas program at Pace where we were gifted things our teachers thought fit our personality. I was gifted a book ‘The daring book for girls’ and bookmarked was a chapter my teacher thought I’d enjoy. I gave that book to my first-born daughter 11 years ago, and the sticky note she used still marks my favorite chapter to this day.”

Destiny feels the driving force which allowed her to persevere and succeed is hope. This sentiment is reflected in her advice for Pace girls, or other young people experiencing challenging situations:

“Everything that you go through is temporary. And you will get there. You just have to persevere.”

Dec
09

Pace Girls Share a Powerful Message of Belonging During the Holidays 

It’s OK to feel different about the holidays. For young women and girls, it is especially important to have access to resources that help them cope with seasonal stress, depression and anxiety brought on by the winter season.   

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.  

Pace Jacksonville girls performed at Pace Center for Girls National Office.

We spoke with Pace girls about what inspired their recent spoken word performance: 

“Our inspiration for the piece was the reality of what Christmas can be for some people. It can be really hard. The poem represents that you can find happiness within yourself.” — Bri 

“We all came together and picked the songs that we like. We went off the vibe — if we all liked the song and if matched the message we wanted to send, then we chose it. It was very group based. I think that is what was best about the experience. Some people may not have a family, and do not have someone to spend the holidays with. Half the girls in the performance, I didn’t know before. And this experience brought us together.” — Jay    

“Our message was to spread joy to those who may not be having a good day.” — Destiny 

When asked about their favorite winter traditions and the girls shared: 

“I go to Puerto Rico every other Christmas, and we listen to the Parrandas [traditional Puerto Rican music] and attend all the festivities they have in Puerto Rico. We make gingerbread houses, eat traditional Puerto Rican food and have turkey.” — Jay    

“This year my family changed our typical tradition, and they let me decorate the tree. I put a hat on the top of the tree rather than a star. The hat represents the hat I usually wear.”  — Harper  

“My family and I hang out a lot during the year, but during Christmas it feels more special. It feels like a time for families to get together.  We spend a lot of time together cooking and enjoying each other’s company.” — Kayla  

Pace serves hundreds of girls from countless different backgrounds across Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. We are proud to create a safe and inclusive environment that recognizes girls for their unique experiences and identities. 

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. Sometimes just asking a girl how she is doing can be a crucial step to prevention or to beginning a healing journey. 

Nov
08

Native American Heritage Month at Pace

This November for Native American Heritage Month, Pace Center for Girls is not only celebrating our girls, but we’re also shining the spotlight on our team. We interviewed Wimberly Raban, Office Manager at Pace Collier at Immokalee, about her Navajo heritage. Here are some highlights from our interview.  

Q: How long have you been at Pace, and what do you do?

Wimberly: I’ve been here at Pace for five years. I originally started as a substitute teacher and then I moved into the Spirited Girls role [as the teacher], and then eventually I became the Office Manager, which is my current position. I like to interact with the girls when I get a chance. At the beginning, that’s where I was – in the classroom with the girls and learning from their experience and me telling them of my experiences.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your Native American heritage?

Wimberly: I’m 100% Navajo. I’m from Fruitland, New Mexico. I grew up there on the reservation and both my parents are full Navajo. Growing up we helped our parents and grandparents in the fields, growing corn, watermelon, and vegetables for the family. And we also herded sheep.

We helped raise our brothers and sisters who are all our cousins basically. [Wimberly clarified: They’re not my natural brothers or sisters, but that’s how we [Navajos] relate to each other.]

We helped our parents and grandparents any way we could – because that’s how we were raised to be.

Q: What does being Native American mean to you?

Wimberly: Being Native American gives me pride. My parents instilled in me to go to school to make something of yourself and live a better life than what they grew up with. And to go off the reservation and see what’s out there in the world. And the main thing was to get an education and then one day come back and teach our people what we’ve learned. I’m part of four clans:

  • Redgoat – Mother’s side
  • Red Streak – Dad’s side
  • Salt –  People with this clan are considered my grandma
  • Running by the Water – People with this clan are considered my grandpa

To me, being Native American is about being a positive role model for our family and our relatives to show our cousins that you can go to school and do something different than what our parents grew up with.

Q: How does that inform your work at Pace?

It’s interesting that the girls look at me and they speak to me in Spanish, and I look at them like, “I don’t speak any Spanish! No habla español.” And they look at me like, “Why were you not taught Spanish?” I’m like, “I’m Native American.” They ask: “What does that mean?” And I say: “I’m Navajo, I’m an Indian.”

Where I’m at, here in Immokalee, I’m fortunate enough that the Seminole tribe is close by. I previously worked for the tribe, so I do know some of the people there and for the girls that are Native American that come to Pace, I do know their parents. So that gives us a connection and a bond, so they feel connected with me.

Q: What are your favorite parts about being Native American?

Wimberly: When you meet other Native Americans, it’s really interesting. When I worked for the Seminole tribe, the first person I met there was asking me where I went to high school. I’m like, “What do you mean, where did I go to high school? I went to high school in New Mexico!” She goes: “Yeah, I know you said that. But where?” I said “Farmington,” because that’s the nearest city. She finally said she was a Chieftain. I stepped back from her and said “Well, I’m a Bronco!” That was our rival school. And we started laughing.

It’s so funny because you can meet Native Americans all over, especially in Navajo. They’re just everywhere. What’s funny about that experience is that she was telling me about her best friend, and she brought me a high school yearbook. I said: “That girl looks familiar!” Her best friend and my best friend are sisters. And her dad worked with my mom. How crazy is that? It’s a small world. And it’s just amazing.

Q: November is Native American Heritage Month! How does your Pace center celebrate this important month? Are there any ways in particular that you celebrate at home during the month of November?

Wimberly: At home, we celebrate our heritage every day! When we celebrate Native American Heritage Month at Pace, we typically dress up in our culture and talk to the girls about what it means to be Native American.

At Pace, our team of dedicated teachers, counselors, therapists, and directors foster safe, supportive, and inclusive environments for our girls to help them reach their goals. Get involved with Pace and check out our current  open positions!  

Oct
10

Celebrating International Day of the Girl 

Pace Center for Girls joins the United Nations and global communities in commemorating the 10th Anniversary of International Day of the Girl, celebrated annually on October 11. 

Pace has focused attention on the need to address the global challenges girls face and led the charge on women’s empowerment since 1985, with more than 40,000 girls and 23 communities served to date. Yet, the need for communities to unite in support of girls and young women with a common vision of a just and equitable society remains prevalent. 

As part of the Community Solutions program, Pace is hosting Thinley Wangmo Lama, a fellow from Nepal. Read a message from Thinley in honor of International Day of the Girl: 

Thinley Wangmo Lama with CEO Mary Marx

Dreaming Big Through Humble Beginnings 

Guest author: Thinley Wangmo Lama, CSP Fellow 2022 

My family belongs to Limi Valley, a remote village in the northwestern part of Nepal bordering the Tibetan Autonomous Region. My grandparents lived a nomadic life and were sheep and yak herders. My father, being the eldest son, took the responsibility to offer us a better life. And he struggled hard to educate us and finally moved the entire family to Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal. I was born in Limi Valley and moved to the city when I was 4 years old.  

Limi Valley Nepal
Limi Valley, Nepal

I feel blessed to have received an education and a better life because many women of my age group in Limi Valley are still unable to read and write as well as struggling with the village lifestyle. Now, I have reached a stage in life where I can financially support my family and help with my community development. I treasure my humble beginnings and always live my life filled with gratitude.  

My experiences have shaped me into who I am today. I am a visionary person and have a sense of responsibility to give back to the community.  

I would describe myself in three words: ambitious, hardworking, and compassionate.  

➔   Ambition: My ambition has led me to apply for the Community Solutions Program (CSP), sponsored by the US Department of State and implemented by IREX, through which I got the opportunity to come to the U.S and work with Pace Center for Girls for 4 months. Thus, I am getting the opportunity to learn about the administrative and functional areas of a non-profit organization as I plan to start my own for underprivileged women in Nepal.  

➔   Hard work: I believe working hard is the key to success. We are all given a certain amount of opportunity in our lives, whether it is big or small — your willpower and hard work will determine the end goal. I have faith in myself that my hard work will help me achieve my dreams.  

➔   Compassion: If you ask my friends, family, and colleagues to describe me as a person, most of them would draw me as a compassionate and kind person. I also believe the same because helping others gives me the most sense of satisfaction compared to everything else, I do in my life. This is the reason behind my initiative to offer education to the women in my village and take part in social welfare activities. Currently, less than 10% of the female population is literate in Limi Valley. My goal is to reach an 80% female literacy rate in the next 5 years.  

Thinley Wangmo Lama with women from her village
Thinley Wangmo Lama with women participating in her female literacy program.

I am a strong believer in lifelong learning and have faith that everyone is capable of growth and change if given the opportunity. But my life has not always been like this. All of us face different challenges and we struggle to overcome them.  

In my case,  

  1. Until high school, I used to lack confidence and did not believe in myself.  
  1. In college, I struggled with relationships and faced many conflicts which led to losing close friends.  
  1. Until now, I am learning how to become an effective communicator and a good public speaker.  

Have I overcome all my shortcomings? No, but it is a work in progress. Over time, I have realized that life is about learning at every stage and embracing the changes. Hence, I admire and try to live by the quote “this too shall pass.” I hope welcoming this quote into your lives makes a difference.  

I am grateful to be part of this program where I can sharpen my skills, embrace growth and change and focus on my strengths. I am fortunate to be part of Pace Center for Girls vision where all girls and young women have Power, in a Just and Equitable society. This vision will reach more women in Nepal through my learnings at Pace.

Thus, I would like to conclude, by wishing you all “Happy International Day of the Girl.”