Pace Center for Girls Leon Social Services Manager, Kristel Avilus, has been named a recipient of the 2021 Florida Juvenile Justice Association Service Excellence Award. This distinction recognizes her commitment to creating meaningful change for Florida’s youth. Kristel has a unique understanding of the significant and positive impact she has at Pace on girls’ lives, as she herself is a Pace girl.
Kristel came to the United States from Jamaica as a teenager and had difficulty transitioning to her new home. At Pace, she thrived due to the relationships she built with Pace team members and the life-changing support she received. After Pace, she went on to earn her Master’s degree in Social Work from Florida State University
“It kind of feels like I’ve come full circle since starting with Pace as a young woman and now going through my journey as a staff member,” said Kristel. “I’ve always seen the greatness in our girls, but as a Pace team member, I see firsthand the impact our team members have on our girls and the community.”
Kristel encourages, supports, and empowers the young women she serves at Pace and in her community through her involvement in several youth outreach programs such as Tallahassee’s Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, Peace of the Big Bend, and At-Risk Assistance Programs.
In this work, she partners with the Sheriff’s department and the court system to prevent young people from being involved with the juvenile justice system by engaging them in life-changing programs like Pace. Dr. Willie Williams, Program Director at Pace Leon, says that Kristel’s connection to the challenges facing our girls is evident in how she approaches her work.
“Girls do not come daily to Pace for the physical structure, but they attend because of the relationships they have built with Pace Staff. Kristel is a shining example of the staff girls have come to know and love.”