Interior Page Hero Image

Empowering Future Leaders: Alexis Journey to College and Career Success

At Pace Center for Girls, we celebrate all our girls’ successes as they look towards the future! College Signing Day celebrated on May 1, is a monumental occasion, marked by a commitment to inspire students to reach higher. This initiative, presented by Better Make Room, celebrates all students who have made the decision to pursue an education past high school, whether at a professional training program, the military, a community college, or a four-year college or university. 

Reflecting on her journey, Alexis emphasizes the pivotal role that Pace played in her academic and personal growth. With her sights set on studying psychology at Santa Fe College and later Florida A&M University, Alexis epitomizes determination and aspiration. “Every girl deserves to be respected and heard,” she shared.  

At Pace, Alexis found not only academic support but also the encouragement and guidance she needed to navigate the college application process. With the assistance of her dedicated counselor, Alexis successfully completed her college applications—a milestone that holds special significance as she will be the first person in her family to attend college.  

“I want to be a therapist because I want to be that person that can help kids. Before I came to Pace, I didn’t have a counselor who helped me. My cousin Ashley encouraged me to attend Pace, and it turns out that Pace has become my safe space,” reflected Alexis. “Because I’ve went through so much in my life, I feel like I will be able to relate and better understand the challenges that girls go through.” 

Of her many accolades, Alexis is proud to be the Girls Leadership Council President at her center. In celebrating Alexis’s achievements, we honor not only her individual success but also the collective efforts of educators, mentors, and advocates who are dedicated to empowering young women to reach their full potential.  

Alexis is the recipient of a college scholarship provided on behalf of State Farm. Pace is grateful for State Farm’s support to support career and college preparation for our girls.


Sisters Defy Distance

Navigating Hours Long Commute to Achieve Success at Pace

For Shea and Precious, sisters and students at Pace Orange, the road to success has never been an easy one. The sisters go through incredible lengths just to get to Pace, but they choose to show up every single day for a better future.

Navigating buses and trains, they begin their long commute to Pace Orange at 5:00 am, traveling up to four hours every weekday to get from Deland, Florida to Winter Park, Florida.

For Shea and Precious, Pace’s holistic mental health support is what sets the programming apart from other schools. “I come to Pace because I’m able to share my feelings and get good feedback that will help me in the future. I went to three different elementary schools during our transition to moving in with our aunt and there were counselors but I didn’t have the same connection. At Pace, I’m actually able to share my feelings,” said Precious.

As the older sister, Shea feels a profound responsibility to be a role model for her younger siblings. She shared, “My siblings motivate me. I’m trying to be a role model for my younger siblings since our dad passed. I keep going and wake up every morning, not only for myself but for them.”

Shea’s experience at Pace has allowed her to open up and learn to rely on others. She candidly shared, “I’m still trying to get used to asking for help, because, after so many years of caring for my younger brother and sister, it’s kind of hard to get out of those ways — but I’m making progress slowly.”

For Precious, Shea is not just an older sister but also a source of inspiration. She explained, “My older sister motivates me because she has taken care of me my whole life. When my parents weren’t around, my sister was always there for me.”

When Shea and Precious think about their future, they see opportunities to inspire others through their creative talents. Music had always held a special place in Shea’s heart, and she believes in its power to save lives. She said, “I want to be that one person that can make a song or just a piece of music that inspires somebody else to keep going.”

Precious has a deep love for art, a form of expression that allows her to convey her feelings when words fail her. She sees art as a tool for storytelling, and her dream is to become a designer and start a fitness clothing brand.

Shea and Precious’s story is one of resilience, determination, and the transformative power of education and holistic mental health support. With their creative talents and unbreakable bond, Shea and Precious are not only forging their own paths to success but also lighting the way for others to follow


Once a Pace Girl, Always a Pace Girl

A Conversation with Anita Crumbacker, Pace Class of 1985

In 1985, Pace Center for Girls, then called Practical and Cultural Education, was a new organization looking to help girls in the juvenile justice system by giving them an education and a new outlook on life.

“I didn’t want to go to school. I wanted to be like every other young person that I was around. I wanted to be free, do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it,” shared Anita Crumbacker, who had run away from home after being kicked out of high school during her junior year.

Anita eventually ended up in a detention center and the judge gave her two options: stay in the detention center until she was 18 or go back to school. That was when Pace came to interview her for the first time.

With only 10 slots to fill in the original Pace class, Anita met Vicki Burke, Pace’s founder, who explained to her the new Pace model, offering her a high school diploma and an opportunity for a better future. Vicki was a passionate young social worker who saw the inequities in the treatment of girls by the juvenile justice system and had the courage to bring about change.

Anita started her senior year at Pace with Vicki, three teachers, and nine other girls. They met in an upstairs classroom at the Snyder Memorial Methodist Church in downtown Jacksonville, Florida. Pace’s vision was to ensure that their futures were bright, the obstacles they were facing were addressed, and their needs were taken care of.

“I thank Vicki for believing in us. She saw a vision that nobody else saw, and she has helped so many young ladies,” shared Anita.

With only two weeks left before graduating, Pace helped Anita land her first job as a mail opener at Illinois State Scholarship Commission. She would eventually become a business analyst at the same company, working there for the next 16 years. Later, she worked at Blue Cross Blue Shield and Jones College where she had the opportunity to go back to school and obtain her bachelor’s degree in business.

“In the back of my mind, I always wanted to go back to Pace, to give back what was given to me,” she said.

I thank Vicki for believing in us. She saw a vision that nobody else saw, and she has helped so many young ladies.

In 2021, Anita joined the Pace Jacksonville team as a resource coordinator. The Pace she now knows looks very different from the one she had attended, with 21 centers in Florida as well as serving communities and school districts in Georgia and South Carolina. But the core values and principles that Pace was founded on remain the same.

Anita is inspired to show Pace girls, many who come from backgrounds similar to her own, that a career and a future beyond the obstacles they have faced are possible.

“There’s nothing more powerful than when I see a girl come into Pace that has had her back against the wall and then I look up and she’s back in school, or in law school, or trying to become a nurse or have a career that’s going to help someone else.”

Anita is still in close contact with three former students, including her best friend Erin and two staff members of the original group at Pace back in 1985. “From ‘85 to today, Pace has been a testimony to every girl that there is a future and hope,” Anita concluded.


The Power of Representation: Inspiring Girls in Male-Dominated Fields

At Pace Center for Girls, we are unwavering in our commitment to providing girls with the support and opportunities they need to succeed. We understand that representation matters, and it goes beyond being a catchphrase; it’s a fundamental principle that shapes aspirations and self-belief. Pace Clay’s recent visit by Sheriff Michelle Cook and her female peers in law enforcement underscored the significance of representation and the transformative impact it can have on our girls.

As the only female sheriff in the state of Florida, Sheriff Michelle Cook shattered gender norms, paving the way for future generations of women in law enforcement. Her presence and her willingness to share her journey resonated deeply with the 40 Pace Clay girls in attendance at the event. Particularly, Gia, 16, a junior at Pace, hopes to become a detective in the future.

Gia’s fascination with solving mysteries has been a lifelong passion. She recalls a childhood experience where she and her friend created a fictional mystery case, igniting her interest in solving real-life mysteries.

Gia is determined to turn her dream into reality. She is an active participant in the Explorers Program with the Clay County Police Department, gaining valuable experience and opportunities to work her way up in law enforcement. Following high school graduation, she intends to attend a community college to earn a degree in criminal justice, further enhancing her qualifications.

Gia’s advice to girls like her aspiring to break barriers in traditionally male-dominated fields is both simple and profound: “Follow your dreams. If you really think you can do it, then you should just try, because if you don’t try, you’ll never know if you can do it or not.”

Gia’s story highlights the critical importance of encouraging more representation in all fields, especially those where women and girls have been historically underrepresented. When girls can see themselves in diverse roles and positions of authority, it broadens their horizons and empowers them to believe in their potential.

At Pace, our vocational and education program is designed to empower at-promise girls in every way possible. We equip them with the tools needed not only to earn their high school diploma or GED but also to develop long-term employability skills. Beyond that, we actively support their pursuit of higher education, whether that means entering a professional training program, joining the military, attending a community college, or enrolling in a four-year university.


The best is yet to come: how two girls from Pace Broward will thrive after graduation.

Our friends at State Farm Insurance and local agents are working alongside Pace girls to celebrate graduation season. Pace received a $90,000 grant from State Farm Insurance to support career and college preparation for girls like Emily and Toni.  Thank you for your commitment to find the great in every girl.

Emily, a senior at Pace Broward, hadn’t attended school in two months before coming to Pace. Toni, also a senior at Pace Broward, reflects that “Pace literally turned my life around.” From immediate counseling services to one-on-one educational support, Pace provides a holistic support system for girls to help them become strong, compassionate, and successful women.

Emily, now on her second to last day of high school, recognizes that Pace “changed my mindset on how I see things. I wasn’t an optimist – I wasn’t able to see the positive side of things. Being here is a weird change, honestly, coming from a place that’s not supportive… everybody [at Pace] wants to be here and help the students.”

Inspired by her Pace Reach therapist, Emily will begin studying Psychology at Broward College in June to one day become a therapist herself. Having lost someone very close to her by suicide, she hopes “maybe I can help people and change the outcome so it’s not devastating to the person, the family, and people around them.” Emily’s support team could not be prouder of her for using her experiences to make the world a better place; she’s even receiving a scholarship from Pace to help with her college tuition.

For Toni, a career in cosmetology – much like attending a Pace Center – is a family tradition. She is excited to continue following in her mother’s footsteps by enrolling in cosmetology school after graduation. With her teachers’ help, Toni has been able to research different schools to find the right fit.

While the road to graduation hasn’t been easy, the past five years at Pace have been transformative for Toni. She says: “The whole program helped me a lot with my behavior issues. I love my counselors, because they listen to their girls, they hear them out and advocate for them.”

Graduation at Pace Broward is fast approaching, and Emily and Toni both feel a mixture of anxiety and excitement. The girls are nervous about the changes to come, and the many unknowns that exist in adulthood, but they know they have bright futures ahead. Toni says: “I’m excited because I get to go out in the real world and explore new things,” while Emily shares that she can’t wait to spend her life “doing something I’m actually interested in, so it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

With graduation upon them, Emily and Toni have sage advice for their younger selves, and for girls like them too. Toni reflects: “I would tell my younger self to never give up on your dreams and keep going.” Emily gratefully acknowledges that “things do change, and it’s not going to stay the same forever, even though it feels like it.”