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A Girl-lead Art Response To Combat Substance Abuse

1 out of 3 girls who are enrolled in a Pace Program self-reported substance abuse. Increasing access to health and holistic wellness for girls is of critical importance, as mental health and substance use rates have risen substantially due to the prolonged global pandemic.

Pace girls and renowned muralist, Nico, co-created a mural titled You Belong Hereto send a message of acceptance, shared experience, worth and inclusion. The project was designed to be a healing experience that allowed for full freedom of expression. Each element on the mural was intentionally designed by the young artists. Imagery represents the girls’ cultures, experiences, personalities, and visions of their future selves.

“I designed myself, but how I see myself in the future. My girl is spray painting ‘Mahal Kita,’ which means ‘I love you’ in Tagalog. My mom is Filipino, and she used to say it to me as a child. I want to send a message to other girls that you have a chance. You deserve to come to Pace and get a second chance in life.” —Adrianna, 12

“My favorite part of this experience was spray painting on the wall. My character’s name is ‘Cloud.’ She has a skin condition that changes parts of her skin color. I designed her like this because I want to send a message of inclusion. Her clothes represent that everyone has a different style.” — Natalie, 14

“Creating a mural with Nico and the other girls was an empowering experience for me. Sharing my story through art expression allowed for new healing. It is exciting to know that our work and my experiences will help uplift other girls going through difficult times.” — Jossmaire, 15

Our girls recognize they have an important role to play as young leaders — raising their voices through art to make a difference in their communities. And more importantly, they believe they can ignite future generations, as changemakers and inspiration for future Pace girls.

Visit here to learn more about the girls’ inspiration for their artwork.

The PLAYERS Championship Village’s partnership with Pace continues the work and advances the mission and purpose of The Village, which is a not-for-profit organization that was formed in 1987, to provide drug and alcohol treatment recovery for youth aged 13 to 17 who could not afford treatment through for-profit facilities.


Celebrating International Day of the Girl 

Pace Center for Girls joins the United Nations and global communities in commemorating the 10th Anniversary of International Day of the Girl, celebrated annually on October 11. 

Pace has focused attention on the need to address the global challenges girls face and led the charge on women’s empowerment since 1985, with more than 40,000 girls and 23 communities served to date. Yet, the need for communities to unite in support of girls and young women with a common vision of a just and equitable society remains prevalent. 

As part of the Community Solutions program, Pace is hosting Thinley Wangmo Lama, a fellow from Nepal. Read a message from Thinley in honor of International Day of the Girl: 

Thinley Wangmo Lama with CEO Mary Marx

Dreaming Big Through Humble Beginnings 

Guest author: Thinley Wangmo Lama, CSP Fellow 2022 

My family belongs to Limi Valley, a remote village in the northwestern part of Nepal bordering the Tibetan Autonomous Region. My grandparents lived a nomadic life and were sheep and yak herders. My father, being the eldest son, took the responsibility to offer us a better life. And he struggled hard to educate us and finally moved the entire family to Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal. I was born in Limi Valley and moved to the city when I was 4 years old.  

Limi Valley Nepal
Limi Valley, Nepal

I feel blessed to have received an education and a better life because many women of my age group in Limi Valley are still unable to read and write as well as struggling with the village lifestyle. Now, I have reached a stage in life where I can financially support my family and help with my community development. I treasure my humble beginnings and always live my life filled with gratitude.  

My experiences have shaped me into who I am today. I am a visionary person and have a sense of responsibility to give back to the community.  

I would describe myself in three words: ambitious, hardworking, and compassionate.  

➔   Ambition: My ambition has led me to apply for the Community Solutions Program (CSP), sponsored by the US Department of State and implemented by IREX, through which I got the opportunity to come to the U.S and work with Pace Center for Girls for 4 months. Thus, I am getting the opportunity to learn about the administrative and functional areas of a non-profit organization as I plan to start my own for underprivileged women in Nepal.  

➔   Hard work: I believe working hard is the key to success. We are all given a certain amount of opportunity in our lives, whether it is big or small — your willpower and hard work will determine the end goal. I have faith in myself that my hard work will help me achieve my dreams.  

➔   Compassion: If you ask my friends, family, and colleagues to describe me as a person, most of them would draw me as a compassionate and kind person. I also believe the same because helping others gives me the most sense of satisfaction compared to everything else, I do in my life. This is the reason behind my initiative to offer education to the women in my village and take part in social welfare activities. Currently, less than 10% of the female population is literate in Limi Valley. My goal is to reach an 80% female literacy rate in the next 5 years.  

Thinley Wangmo Lama with women from her village
Thinley Wangmo Lama with women participating in her female literacy program.

I am a strong believer in lifelong learning and have faith that everyone is capable of growth and change if given the opportunity. But my life has not always been like this. All of us face different challenges and we struggle to overcome them.  

In my case,  

  1. Until high school, I used to lack confidence and did not believe in myself.  
  1. In college, I struggled with relationships and faced many conflicts which led to losing close friends.  
  1. Until now, I am learning how to become an effective communicator and a good public speaker.  

Have I overcome all my shortcomings? No, but it is a work in progress. Over time, I have realized that life is about learning at every stage and embracing the changes. Hence, I admire and try to live by the quote “this too shall pass.” I hope welcoming this quote into your lives makes a difference.  

I am grateful to be part of this program where I can sharpen my skills, embrace growth and change and focus on my strengths. I am fortunate to be part of Pace Center for Girls vision where all girls and young women have Power, in a Just and Equitable society. This vision will reach more women in Nepal through my learnings at Pace.

Thus, I would like to conclude, by wishing you all “Happy International Day of the Girl.”


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.  

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