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.”