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Empowering the Next Generation of Female Leaders

Pace gives girls an opportunity to grow and learn, providing the tools to become more confident, responsible, and active community members. In March, Pace Clay girls Emily and Lilly attended the Feedback+Jacksonville Peer Learning Session, where they learned from local nonprofits and community leaders and were empowered to share their vision for a Jacksonville that listens to girls.

Emily, a ninth-grade student who has attended Pace for more than a year, took away a valuable lesson from the session: feedback matters. Emily uses this learning every day in her role as President of the Pace Clay Girls Leadership Council (GLC) alongside the Vice President, Lilly. The GLC promotes Pace in their community, serves as role models at school, and plans events and presentations for their peers. Emily’s core responsibility on the Council is to be “a voice for the voices of the girls.” She says: “I’m making a change. I’m advocating for me and for them so it makes me really happy to let them know that they’re not alone and that they have me here for them.”

Lilly, a tenth-grade student who has attended Pace for eleven months, shared that she learned “there are many parts that go into making community improvements.” This is certainly a lesson Lilly has taken to heart during her time at Pace. By engaging in the Pace Clay community and taking advantage of the services that are available to her, she has excelled. She has progressed from middle school to tenth grade in less than a year at Pace and serves as Vice President of the Pace Clay Girls Leadership Council.

As the Vice President, Lilly is responsible for collecting and responding to feedback from her peers. She incorporates what she learned at the Feedback+Jacksonville event, saying “I respond to feedback by letting the girls know what can be changed or why it can’t.” Lilly is also proud of the presentations she has put on for her peers. This year, she has presented on breast cancer awareness and on the effects of nicotine in young adults.

The leadership experiences available to Pace girls like Emily and Lilly help girls envision the future they want for both their communities and for themselves. For Lilly, the GLC has shown her what having responsibility looks like, helping build confidence in her leadership skills. This confidence will serve her well as she hopes to one day become a medical sonographer – helping expecting parents and other people in the community.

Through the GLC, Emily has learned “to advocate for myself and others” and “to think outside the box.” She hopes to join the Air Force, and then go to college to become a family lawyer. From advocating for her peers at Pace to one day advocating for families in the courtroom, Pace’s lessons on leadership will impact Emily for years to come.

But beyond their personal goals, Emily and Lilly use what they have learned at Pace to envision a better North Florida for everyone. Lilly hopes for a “future in North Florida where girls can have a voice.” Emily dreams of “a safer place for girls where we can walk down the streets without fearing that anything will happen to us.” She wants everyone to “respect girls no matter what we are wearing because we are not objects, and clothes don’t define us.” With Emily and Lilly leading the way, North Florida is certainly on the right track.

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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.


A Girl-lead Art Response To Combat Substance Abuse

1 out of 3 girls who are enrolled in a Pace Program self-reported substance abuse. Increasing access to health and holistic wellness for girls is of critical importance, as mental health and substance use rates have risen substantially due to the prolonged global pandemic.

Pace girls and renowned muralist, Nico, co-created a mural titled You Belong Hereto send a message of acceptance, shared experience, worth and inclusion. The project was designed to be a healing experience that allowed for full freedom of expression. Each element on the mural was intentionally designed by the young artists. Imagery represents the girls’ cultures, experiences, personalities, and visions of their future selves.

“I designed myself, but how I see myself in the future. My girl is spray painting ‘Mahal Kita,’ which means ‘I love you’ in Tagalog. My mom is Filipino, and she used to say it to me as a child. I want to send a message to other girls that you have a chance. You deserve to come to Pace and get a second chance in life.” —Adrianna, 12

“My favorite part of this experience was spray painting on the wall. My character’s name is ‘Cloud.’ She has a skin condition that changes parts of her skin color. I designed her like this because I want to send a message of inclusion. Her clothes represent that everyone has a different style.” — Natalie, 14

“Creating a mural with Nico and the other girls was an empowering experience for me. Sharing my story through art expression allowed for new healing. It is exciting to know that our work and my experiences will help uplift other girls going through difficult times.” — Jossmaire, 15

Our girls recognize they have an important role to play as young leaders — raising their voices through art 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.

Visit here to learn more about the girls’ inspiration for their artwork.

The PLAYERS Championship Village’s partnership with Pace continues the work and advances the mission and purpose of The Village, which is a not-for-profit organization that was formed in 1987, to provide drug and alcohol treatment recovery for youth aged 13 to 17 who could not afford treatment through for-profit facilities.


Pace Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

Each year from September 15 to October 15, we honor Hispanic Heritage Month – a month dedicated to celebrating and recognizing the influence of Hispanic and Latinx people across the United States.

“I am proud to be Cuban. I do not hide my Hispanic heritage, and I am not ashamed of it. I won’t change my natural, curly hair by straightening it. Nor am I not afraid to speak Spanish when I am out in public. Not changing who I am, is how I honor Hispanic Heritage Month,” shared Sandra, 17, a Pace Polk girl.

Pace serves hundreds of girls from countless different cultural backgrounds across Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. At Pace Jacksonville, high school students Jossmaire and Natalie are proud of their Puerto Rican heritage. “We are very colorful people,” says Natalie, a ninth grader who first came to Pace in January. Jossmaire, a tenth grader about to complete her first year at Pace, echoes Natalie’s love of Puerto Rican diversity: “You can’t pinpoint who is Puerto Rican or not… everybody has completely different ways of belief and arts, so it’s really good.”

Pace is proud to create a safe and inclusive environment that recognizes girls for their unique cultural identities. To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, Jossmaire and Natalie are creating a mural alongside their classmates. Jay writes: “para mi gente,” which means “for my people.” “It’s a tribute to the people that are like us – the Hispanics and Latinos.” She also writes “si se puede,” or “yes we can” on the mural to uplift her classmates.

Natalie takes a visual approach to honor this month. She paints an outline of an umbrella, an homage to a beautiful umbrella-lined street in Puerto Rico that she recalls from her childhood.

For Mercedes, an eighth grader at Pace Collier, Hispanic Heritage Month is all about celebrating her family’s roots in Mexico. She loves to “make Spanish foods and celebrate” at home, while at Pace, she has the opportunity to “dress up with something from within [her] culture” to commemorate the month.

Whether Pace girls are doing an art project, wearing culturally significant clothing, or tasting cuisines from around the globe, every day at Pace gives girls a chance to feel accepted and empowered to share their cultures with pride.

Natalie loves sharing her cultural knowledge with her classmates. She says “when we’re talking about a [relevant] topic… everyone is like: ‘Jay and Natalie – they’re Puerto Rican.’” This sense of ownership over her culture is reinforced by her history class at Pace. “They teach us about heritage and Hispanic heritage. It gives us comfortability to talk about it.”

This sense of cultural acceptance goes beyond one month of the year. From her classmates wearing vibrant shirts on Haitian Flag Day to enjoying turkey at Pace Collier’s Thanksgiving feast, Mercedes has learned that despite their many differences, “everyone has something in common.”

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.


Pace Graduates Share Next Chapter and Parting Wisdom

Pace girls come from all backgrounds, but throughout their time at Pace, we teach them to embrace growth and change while working to invest in their futures. Finding power through community, trusted support and self-discovery is an empowering moment in a girl’s life.

Graduation ceremonies are a huge milestone achievement for Pace girls, who have overcome various personal and academic trials in order to complete high school. Embellished in glitter and bold colors, each girl’s graduation cap is often personalized with an inspirational message that reflects on their own individual journey. One cap at Pace Lee read “with patience you grow, you heal, and you learn,” while another one quoted “girls with dreams become women with vision.”

Turning the page to their next chapter in life, these inspiring young women shared their parting wisdom and words of encouragement to help guide the next girl who finds herself in similar shoes.

Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?

“It’s okay to cry and talk about your feelings.” – Alexis

With the help of Pace, Alexis was able to transform her life, both physically and mentally. She plans to pursue a career in the real estate field, with her newborn daughter as motivation by her side.

“Be confident and love yourself.” – Alicia

Through tremendous strength and support, Alicia paved her way to becoming a first-generation college student. She has already started college courses and plans to pursue a career in the medical field.

“Be proud of yourself.” – Ciera

At Pace, Ciera was able to shift her mindset and overcome negative self-talk. Her next chapter includes continuing her education to pursue a career in the medical field.

“You can do whatever you put your mind to.” – Dallise

Pace helped Dallise see her full potential and achieve a happier life. Her sights are set on a career in cosmetology or with a veterinary practice.

“If you believe in yourself, anything is possible.” – Destiny

At a time of anger and rebellion, Destiny found the support she needed to transform into a confident young woman and dream big. Her plans are to pursue a career in her passion of cosmetology.

“Everything happens for a reason.” – Piper

Piper thrived at Pace and studied diligently so she could graduate early. She plans to pursue a career in emergency medical services.


Pace Macon Girls Express Themselves Through Art

Pace believes that all girls, regardless of their story, deserve safe and supportive spaces to heal and develop into strong, compassionate, and successful women. We incorporate self-reflection and mindfulness into curriculum and encourage creativity as a means of self-expression.   

In all its various forms, art is a powerful tool for expression. We spoke with Pace Macon girls and Rebecca Richard, Reach Program Manager at Pace Macon, about their recent participation in an art therapy session at Booker T. Washington Center in Georgia.  

Eric Gordan, an art educator from Taylor County High School, led the session and shared with girls that they were free to put on their canvases whatever spoke to them as they painted self-portraits.  

“Activities such as these create a culture of camaraderie, which is very important because often girls with trauma build a defensive wall where they keep to themselves,” shared Rebecca. “This creative therapy technique allows girls to be vulnerable.”  

The Pace Reach Program is designed to be community based and to meet girls where they’re at: in their schools, in their homes and in their communities. 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. 

“Only a few of these girls knew each other before this activity,” noted Rebecca. “When these girls go back to school in August, they will be able to recognize and have had a positive experience with at least one more person in their community.” 

With support from an MVP: Macon Violence Prevention grant, Pace will continue to expand its Reach Programming in Georgia by adding an additional Therapist. Girls who participate in the Pace Reach Program improve their skills and ability to make healthy decisions and reduce harmful habits to their health, wellness and safety. Pace’s holistic approach cares for their physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual and relational development needs. Through these services, girls learn how to manage stress and adversities, improve personal relationships, learn new communication skills and improve school performance.