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Once a Pace Girl, Always a Pace Girl

Destiny is a former Pace Polk girl who overcame significant adversity in her journey from young woman to a substitute teacher, mother, and recent college graduate.

As a young woman Destiny described herself as “being allowed to do whatever I wanted,” raised in a household where her parents didn’t provide direction or guidance. The lack of structure and support led her to struggle in a traditional school setting.

Expelled from Sleepy Hill Middle School, Pace was the only option for school that Destiny was given. As an 11-year-old – the youngest girl in her class at Pace Polk – Destiny described the environment she found there as a sisterhood.

“I remember Miss Susan teaching me about my period and how to properly brush my teeth and what we should do if we didn’t have toothpaste, because she knew a lot of us didn’t,” Destiny recalled on her early time at Pace, pointing to how her experience helped her to build foundational skills she wasn’t getting elsewhere.

“It was rough,” Destiny shared. “Pace was full of girls just like me, so it was nice to not feel so alone.”

Destiny completed her sixth-grade year at Pace and afterward tried to go back to traditional school settings but found they didn’t fit like her experience at Pace had. She attempted different schools, dropping out a total of four times before she landed back at Pace.

Upon returning back to Pace, Destiny was able to focus and completed the rest of her middle and high school education. Reflecting back all these years later, Destiny recalls a teacher, Mrs. Laura, who provided her with a cap and gown at the Pace graduation ceremony because Destiny couldn’t afford her own. “It was like that one moment at the end of the year that will stay with me forever.” Destiny acknowledges that this simple act of kindness helped shape the person she would later become.

After finishing high school, Destiny focused on further establishing herself with her newly found skills. After 10 years, she turned back to education, graduating in 2021 from Hillsborough Community College with her Associates of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice.

“Two years ago, I was hired by DCF at their Lakeland office. It was the first real job I ever had. Of all the people in the world I thought to share my good news with, I thought of my Pace social worker first. I tried to find her on social media, because I was just so proud of what I had done. She had such an impact on me that after more than 15 years without contact I wanted to share the good news with her first.”

Today Destiny is a substitute teacher, a wife, and a mother of two who is continuing on in her higher education journey with plans to pursue a law degree through Florida State University and subsequent graduate programs to become a lawyer. She drives a minivan, noting the enduring symbol of suburban normality, and admits, “I am not anything like you would expect someone with an upbringing like mine to be, and Pace should be credited with that.”

Reflecting on how Pace has impacted her relationship with her daughter, Destiny shared: “There was a Christmas program at Pace where we were gifted things our teachers thought fit our personality. I was gifted a book ‘The daring book for girls’ and bookmarked was a chapter my teacher thought I’d enjoy. I gave that book to my first-born daughter 11 years ago, and the sticky note she used still marks my favorite chapter to this day.”

Destiny feels the driving force which allowed her to persevere and succeed is hope. This sentiment is reflected in her advice for Pace girls, or other young people experiencing challenging situations:

“Everything that you go through is temporary. And you will get there. You just have to persevere.”


Pace Alumna is Appointed to the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention State Advisory Group 

Angie is a recent high school graduate and valedictorian of Pace Center for Girls, Palm Beach. She was a former secretary of the Pace Center for Girls Leadership Council and was a member of Leadership Grow of Palm Beach County. Angie currently serves as a 2022 Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Youth Ambassador. 

We sat down with Angie as she reflected on her experience at Pace and her journey to where she is today.  

Angie at her 2022 graduation from Pace.

How did you find Pace? 

I was at a rough patch in my life to the point where public schools weren’t working for me. I was getting in a lot of trouble and causing my family significant issues. An officer was transporting me and recommended Pace to me. Initially, I did not want to go to an all-girls school.  But I decided to give Pace a try. I enrolled in Pace with a 1.7 GPA. I remember it correctly because I was failing and had gotten so off track in school. I really didn’t care about life at that point.  

What support did you receive at Pace?  

Once I was enrolled, things just started going right. I wasn’t used to a setting where people were positive and wanted to help me get better. I started feeling much more comfortable with telling my story without having to feel judged because Pace was such a safe space for me. 

I started participating in the Girls Leadership Council and progressively leveling up in Pace’s Growth and Change System. I enrolled in Pace’s Reach Program and the Life Coach Program. Everyone helped me stay on track.  

I went from being a straight ‘F’ student to a straight ‘’A student. I finished my senior year with a 3.5 GPA and was the valedictorian. In 2022, I won the DJJ (Department of Juvenile Justice) Youth Ambassador Award. And that’s when the DJJ Department in Tallahassee reached out to me to see if I’d like to submit an application to go into the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention State Advisory Group. 

Tell us more about your experience advocating for girls. 

I was the Secretary of Pace Palm Beach’s Girls Leadership Council and a member of Leadership Grow of Palm Beach County. During that time, I would advocate for mental health support because a lot of girls unfortunately go through a lot of challenges with substance abuse and family issues.  

What changes would you like to see in the Juvenile Justice System?  

I think the main change is finding the underlying cause of girls’ challenges and not just focusing on wrong doings. I also think there can be improvement in taking care of people in the Juvenile Justice System who have mental health challenges. A lot of people do not end up getting mental health support and that’s why they can end up going back into the system. I’m thankful I was set up with Pace and a therapist.  

Tell us more about why you were chosen to be the 2022 Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Youth Ambassador. 

I think a lot of things contributed to me being chosen. Of course, me previously being involved with the DJJ system, and then my work advocating for fellow girls on Pace’s Girls Leadership Council. I also participated in Pace Day at the Capital and was able to meet and speak with a couple of Senators.  

What motivates you to raise your voice for change?  

I think what has motivated me the most is when other girls share that they look up to me.  

At Pace Day at the Capital, I was able to join other girls in sharing our stories and advocating for change in record expungement. I feel like adults can say something, but when it’s coming from a girl who’s been through the experience, others are willing to listen and see what they can do in terms of changing the system for the better.  

What future do you envision for yourself? 

I’m proud of myself and I owe a lot to Pace. I improved my academics drastically and have heard from different universities and state officials. My love is real estate – ever since I was younger and would drive by all the mansions on Palm Beach Island with my mom. I’m interested in architecture and staging houses for them to be sold. I hope to one day have my own brokerage.  

We continue to be inspired by the growth and development our girls demonstrate to make their communities stronger for all. 

Pace Day at the Capitol remains an essential component of the Pace advocacy strategy with respect to appropriations and legislative priorities.  It also provides an opportunity for Pace girls to participate in the legislative process, by testifying before committees, engaging in mock debate on specific bills, and by advocating with their individual legislators. 


Pace Girls Share a Powerful Message of Belonging During the Holidays 

It’s OK to feel different about the holidays. For young women and girls, it is especially important to have access to resources that help them cope with seasonal stress, depression and anxiety brought on by the winter season.   

Pace Jacksonville’s Performing Arts Club invites girls to engage, collaborate and raise their voices through music, art, dance and spoken word. The arts have a unique ability to capture stories while giving a voice to both individual and collective experiences.  

Pace Jacksonville girls performed at Pace Center for Girls National Office.

We spoke with Pace girls about what inspired their recent spoken word performance: 

“Our inspiration for the piece was the reality of what Christmas can be for some people. It can be really hard. The poem represents that you can find happiness within yourself.” — Bri 

“We all came together and picked the songs that we like. We went off the vibe — if we all liked the song and if matched the message we wanted to send, then we chose it. It was very group based. I think that is what was best about the experience. Some people may not have a family, and do not have someone to spend the holidays with. Half the girls in the performance, I didn’t know before. And this experience brought us together.” — Jay    

“Our message was to spread joy to those who may not be having a good day.” — Destiny 

When asked about their favorite winter traditions and the girls shared: 

“I go to Puerto Rico every other Christmas, and we listen to the Parrandas [traditional Puerto Rican music] and attend all the festivities they have in Puerto Rico. We make gingerbread houses, eat traditional Puerto Rican food and have turkey.” — Jay    

“This year my family changed our typical tradition, and they let me decorate the tree. I put a hat on the top of the tree rather than a star. The hat represents the hat I usually wear.”  — Harper  

“My family and I hang out a lot during the year, but during Christmas it feels more special. It feels like a time for families to get together.  We spend a lot of time together cooking and enjoying each other’s company.” — Kayla  

Pace serves hundreds of girls from countless different backgrounds across Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. We are proud to create a safe and inclusive environment that recognizes girls for their unique experiences and identities. 

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. Sometimes just asking a girl how she is doing can be a crucial step to prevention or to beginning a healing journey. 


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.


Meet Four Pace Girls Making a Difference in Their Community

Sophia, Alyssa, Katlyn and Olivia are part of the Girls Leadership Council (GLC) at Pace Broward. As November is the month of midterm elections and voting, the girls connected to discuss the importance of civic engagement. 

Before finding Pace, Sophie was dealing with self-confidence issues and struggling with attending school “I used to be like a turtle. They go in their shell all the time and they get scared, that was me,” she said. After finding Pace, Sophia became more passionate about education, and in the future, she plans on joining the Air Force, since her grandfather was a Marine. 

Alyssa found out about Pace through the Reach program. “I’ve been able to get the credits that I need,” she said. “The teachers are really helpful, and they don’t make me feel uncomfortable with asking for help at any moment.” 

Olivia was struggling with focusing in school and completing her homework. After she found out about Pace through her therapist, she came to Broward, and her ability to complete her assignments improved dramatically. 

Katlyn found out about Pace through family and friends as she was looking for a space to help improve her mental health. In the future, Katlyn sees herself becoming a theater actress.  

As members of the GLC, the girls practice advocating and finding their voice within the safe walls of their classrooms. They inspire change, mentor younger and/or new girls, engage with public officials to share their stories and promote the needs of all girls. 

Girls learned about the importance of exercising their right to vote by participating in a mock election.

“I can advocate for the girls in a way that the staff can’t,” Sophia said. “I can help bring concerns up and provide staff with more understanding.” 

“I feel like our role is to set a good example for the other girls,” Alyssa said. 

One example of the members of the GLC sharing their concerns is when Katlyn was invited to a homecoming from a different school and a few of the girls came together to sign a petition requesting a homecoming for Broward. They shared the petition with staff, and it is currently in review. 

“We’re just trying to get things to help the girls see that Pace is an amazing place,” Katlyn said. 

Alyssa, Member of Pace Broward’s Girls Leadership Council

Another example of the members advocating for change involved Alyssa bringing attention to the city bus hours.

“A lot of us girls take the city bus. We needed to get out earlier in time for the bus. Certain girls would have to go home early only because they were making it home like six, seven o’clock at night because of where they were living at and all of that. Because I’m in the GLC, I was able to bring this issue to the attention of staff faster. When the bus schedules change, Ms. Orlane looked at the schedule and made sure there was a balance for us. Instead of getting out at 2:50 pm, we now get out at 2:42 pm.” 

When the girls have a complaint, they set up a meeting with the staff to discuss their concerns and have an open and honest discussion of how to address them. 

“It’s being a voice for the other girls when talking to the staff,” Olivia said. “I try and take everyone’s well-being into account when we have the meetings. I think about how this affects the other students.” 

Some of the girls dealt with cyberbullying and to combat this issue, the members of the GLC came together to create a bully box, where girls can anonymously share their stories of bullying and harassment. This has helped to uplift girls’ voices and curb the issue of bullying dramatically.  

In the coming months, the GLC at Pace Broward will elect a president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary. They will build a campaign and engage directly with the girls, encouraging them to vote for who they believe will serve each position best. 

As the girls prepare for their own campaigns, they discussed the importance of civic engagement within their community. 

“It’s important to have representation,” Sophia said. “It’s like a way to provide a set of rules within the community.” 

“Voting is a right,” Alyssa said. “Everyone has the right to be heard and their opinions are to be listened to.” 

“What I envision for women in the future is that people don’t see them as weak and people won’t see women below men,” Olivia said. “We should be seen as equals to them.” 

“I want women to know that they can do anything that they put their mind to and they don’t have to stay hidden because a man or even another woman brings them down,” Katlyn said. 

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.

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