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Every Girl Deserves a Chance: Yaritza’s Journey with Pace Center for Girls

In the summer after her 7th-grade year, Yaritza and her family moved from Illinois to Florida, seeking a fresh start after a period of trauma. After attending traditional school for her 8th grade year in Florida, she found she wasn’t adjusting well and was falling behind the curve of her peers. With very little support and lack of hope, she was close giving up all together about herself and her future. Yaritza recalls, “This was a time in my life where I truly didn’t care what happened to me. I didn’t see the point in trying because my life felt out of my control and chaos seemed to follow me wherever I went. I couldn’t see a path forward, but I knew something had to change.” This move led her to a place that she described as significantly impacting her life for the better – Pace Center for Girls.

In 2014, Yaritza’s mom connected with a transition counselor who introduced the idea of Pace. Initially, Yaritza was very resistant to the idea of attending an all-girls school. It took months of convincing her to even look at a brochure and be open to the idea of going to see her local Pace school. However, a tour of the center changed her perspective. “It felt really welcoming and safe, I can still remember the bright colors of the walls and the wheel of Pace’s Values and Guiding Principles. For the first time in a while, it gave me hope that I could achieve those goals,” she recalls. This welcoming environment gave Yaritza the chance to feel secure and supported during a crucial time in her life.

At Pace, Yaritza found her favorite class, “Spirited Girls,” where she learned budgeting – a skill that sparked her interest in finance. This class was her first step towards her current career path to be a financial advisor and planner. Reflecting on her time at Pace, Yaritza says, “Pace was the first time that I took therapy seriously. I felt like I was allowed to process my emotions and received more holistic support. It showed me I can’t change what happened in my past, but I am in control of my present and my future.” Pace gave her the chance to develop essential life skills and discover her passion. Yaritza obtained for an extension in the program not wanting to leave the comfort and security of her favorite school, but the time came when she had to move forward with the lessons she learned.

After transitioning back to her local high school in her sophomore year, Yaritza carried the lessons and memories from Pace with her. “I still remember my transition party from Pace and how much it meant to me. I was gifted a book, “Oh the places you’ll go” by Dr. Seuss and I actually believed it. Everyone signed and left encouraging messages in my book. I still have my Pace ID from high school,” she shares. Keeping the ID serves as a reminder of how far she has come and the impact Pace had on her life. After graduating from high school, Yaritza worked diligently to earn her associate degree, furthering her education and opening more doors for her future.

For other girls facing challenges, Yaritza offers advice: “Don’t be nervous to put yourself into an environment you don’t know. Don’t be close-minded and be open to positive change even if it goes against what you’ve known. The only way out for me was to face everything I was running from with strength and resilience. Give yourself grace for your mistakes and do better next time. Pace made me more well-rounded and grateful for my life.” She emphasizes the importance of seeking support and breaking the stigma that only ‘bad girls’ go to Pace. “It’s for girls that just need a little additional support.”

Yaritza attributes her personal and professional growth to the values and guiding principles she learned at Pace. “I learned to actually take care of myself at Pace. I still carry Pace’s Values and Guiding Principles with me in my career today.”

Every girl deserves a chance to succeed, and at Pace, Yaritza found the tools and opportunities she needed to become the successful woman she is today.

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