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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.


Celebrating Women’s Equality Day

August 26 marks Women’s Equality Day, a day celebrating the anniversary of the 19th amendment, which prohibits states from denying the right to vote on the basis of sex. At Pace, many of our girls are excited to exercise their right to vote for the first time in this year’s midterm elections. In addition to providing community, trauma-informed care and academic support, Pace encourages our girls to lift their voices through civic engagement.

Brynassia, a senior at Pace Polk, believes that voting is an important way for women to share their opinions and beliefs. “We should take advantage of voting because people really fought hard for us to vote to this very day,” she says passionately. 

Josalin, a 10th grader at Pace, shared that she found her voice since joining Pace. “I believe voting is important because it gives everyone a voice, and it helps level the playing field. It’s not just about voting – it’s the act of having something that everyone else can have and sharing equality,” she says.  

Although she’s not eligible yet, Josalin looks forward to voting when she’s eighteen. “I’ve always been excited to vote and put my own opinion out there. Being here at Pace makes me excited to shape the future as it comes.” 

Brynassia and Josalin learned about Women’s Equality Day through their education at Pace. Learning about the fight for equal rights and inclusivity is just one of the many ways that Pace teaches our girls that their voices and goals are valid. 

Josalin shared a bit about the Women’s Equality scrapbook art project in her Spirited Girls class. Each girl will choose an inspirational woman and write about how they have impacted their community. Josalin chose the Queen of England because she was “inspired by the monarch’s support for inclusive laws that uplift women.”

“The beauty of the Spirited Girls class is that we can explore all creative avenues. Our girls begin to feel better about themselves when they feel like they have a special talent – whether it’s poetry, art, or other means of expression. They find the power to lift their voice and express themselves,” says Michelle Taylor, who teaches the class.  

Josalin takes the creative aspiration she developed through Spirited Girls seriously. She wants to be a fashion designer who makes inclusive clothing. “I want to study design and fashion, but after that, I want to start my own business making clothes. I want to design clothes that anyone can wear. […] Clothing that a boy can wear and someone non-binary can wear,” she shares.  

Most notably, Pace reminds our girls that they have a supportive community behind them on their journey toward greatness. Brynassia tells us that “there are times where I’m probably goofing around with the teachers, but when I have a serious conversation that I want to talk about, they’re all ears, and everybody’s listening […] because I know they care about what I want to say.”  

Before joining the Pace community, Brynassia struggled with behavioral health and needed a safe and loving environment for healing and self-discovery. Today, she aspires to attend college in Alabama and become a registered nurse to help women deliver babies. The affirmative care she received at Pace helped guide her passion for helping others. Brynassia can achieve her goals today because of the progress made by women over the last 122 years.  

As she looks toward her future, Brynassia thinks back to when she first joined Pace. With a grin, she says, “ever since [I joined Pace], I’ve just been doing great.”  

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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.  


If She Can See it, She Can Be It: Pace Girl Reflects on First Female Aerial Demonstration Pilot in the Blue Angels

Women have written themselves into history over the past few months — making history at the Oscars, in Jeopardy, the Supreme Court, Federal Government and more. Most recently, for the first time in its 76-year history, the Navy’s famed Blue Angels aerial demonstration team will feature a female F-18 pilot, Lt. Amanda Lee. 

We sat down with Libby, a senior at Pace Escambia-Santa Rosa, who shared her own personal aspirations to join the Air Force and reflected on Lt. Amanda Lee’s footprint in history: 

“It was time for a female to get into the Blue Angels demonstration team. There are more ladies doing things that statistics say men should do. We are saying, no, I can do just as much as you can.” 

Libby’s wise words reflect the growth she has experienced during her time at Pace. In previous school settings, Libby struggled with behavioral issues. It wasn’t until Pace that she found her footing and reclaimed her power.  

“Pace showed me the leader that I can be. My grades have improved and I’m on track to graduate,” shared Libby.  

Libby’s desire to join the Air Force stemmed from her experience at Chappie James Flight Academy where she had the opportunity to try a flight simulator and fly in an airplane. “The Air Force will keep me on a good path for my career,” she shared.  

Pace Escambia Rosa recently hosted a military career readiness session that further fostered her desire to join the armed forces. Pace’s holistic model involves mentoring, life-skills coaching and supporting girls in exploring career and college readiness.  

“As part of our transitional planning services, we recently invited women from all four branches of the military to speak to our girls,” shared Ashley Donahoo, Transition Service Specialist at Pace Escambia-Santa Rosa. “It was an empowering moment for our girls, to see all women and hear how the military positively shaped their lives.” 

When Pace girls begin to realize their inherent power, they discover a path to take charge of their own stories and futures.  Looking ahead to the future, Libby shared, “Ten years from now, I still see myself in the military. I will strive for a leadership position, because I know I can be a great leader.”  

Pace envisions a world where all girls and young women have POWER, in a JUST and EQUITABLE society. The number of women in the Air Force and the Navy is nearly five times greater today than it was in the 1970s, while female Army recruits have tripled during the same period. As Women’s Equality Day approaches, we commemorate and celebrate women’s achievements.  


Safe Spaces: “There is nothing more secure than a place that allows you to become a better version of yourself.”

Every girl has the right to feel physically and emotionally safe.

Jaliyah, a Pace Miami girl who aspires to become a doctor, reflected on her definition of ‘safe space’ and shared: “When I come to Pace, I feel more of a homey vibe. I come to Pace, and I feel comfortable. I don’t feel scared to be here.”

At Pace, we incorporate self-reflection and mindfulness into curriculum and encourage creativity as a means of self-expression. Unique to the Pace model is “Spirited Girls,” a dedicated class that offers girls gentle guidance and supports their self-discovery and growth. The curriculum focuses on the developmental needs of girls, life and vocational skills, diversity, spirituality and empowerment.

“It’s not like other schools have classes like Spirited Girls. So, it’s unique. The class is different, so it should be a different environment,” shared Alexis, a Pace Miami girl in eleventh grade.

Jaliyah and Alexis’s reflections — along with the 80 girls who attend Pace Miami — inspired a dynamic cohort of 10 leadership Miami professionals, known as Genesis 305, to revamp and enhance Pace Miami’s Spirited Girls classroom.

“Due to the short time frame of our project, we were unsure that we would gain the necessary funds to put the Spirited Girls classroom together. But as we as a team continued to tell the story of Pace, more and more people saw the dream that we had for the program, and the support from the community blossomed,” shared Jessie Caceres, Events & Communications Specialist at Chapman Partnership and member of Genesis 305.

Through involvement with the Miami Chamber of Commerce, the Genesis 305 team remained steadfast in their efforts to fundraise for Pace Miami and immerse themselves in Pace’s vision.

“All of the furniture was donated for the classroom which gave us the opportunity to catapult the rest of the project to not only focus on the classroom but the school itself. It’s been an incredible experience seeing the power of community work towards this common goal,” noted Jessie.

Genesis 305 ultimately fundraised over $61,000 to support the project — accomplishing well beyond their goal. The team coined the term ‘heart work’ and repainted the entire Pace Miami building, partnered with a local muralist to develop a mural inspired by Pace girls, provided building repairs, and donated new technology.

“Pace taught us that girls learn differently, they need the space to thrive, to create, to process and decide who they will become when they leave. There is nothing more secure than a place that allows you to become a better version of yourself,” shared Ekaete Ikpeinyang, member of Genesis 305 and Director of Clinical Nursing Operations & Integration at Jackson Health System.

If you’d like to contribute to Pace’s Spirited Girls programming, or would like to learn more about how to get involved with Pace, visit: Get Involved | Pace Center for Girls 


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.