At Pace, we believe communities are stronger when girls and women have the opportunity to thrive. We sat down with one Pace alumna Alivia from Macon, GA who reflected on her experience with Pace and her journey to where she is today.
How did you find Pace?
My family and I had been facing some challenges — a lot of it came from financial struggles.
My family was dealing with substance abuse and my nieces and nephew were dropping out of school.
The tipping point was the eviction, which hit me really hard. When we were forced out, the people took everything — my clothes, my laptop, all the things I needed for school, and I felt guilty. I prided myself on being an overachieving 16-year-old, and I believed I could have done something to prevent this situation.
After the eviction, we moved into my grandparents’ house. I had to adjust and refigure out everything. When we were first there, there were 10 people in a house meant for four. After a long battle of caring for my grandmother, she passed away, another big loss for my family. I knew I couldn’t do this on my own, but I also didn’t feel I had the support I needed from my family at that time.
A mentor of mine recommended that I reach out to Pace and talk to someone.
What did you learn at Pace?
[At Pace] I learned the value of self-care. I learned my worth and how to give myself the credit I deserve. My favorite quote that my counselor Rebecca told me was: “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” She helped me reframe my circumstances and find the positive in every situation. She reinforced my determination to never give up. I learned to prioritize myself and my mental health on the path to self discovery. I am the most resilient person I know and because of Pace, I can recognize that.
Where are you now?
I’m a freshman at Fort Valley State in the cooperative developmental energy program, which is a dual-degree program where I am pursuing my bachelor’s in math and a master’s in engineering. I’ve always been a math and science person, I’ve always been good with my hands, and I love building things.
I also have a couple of businesses. I’m learning to do acrylic nails, and I’ve done some graphic design. I designed the flyers for the student government association executive board campaign, which helped the campaign win the election.
In February, you recently testified at a budget committee meeting at the Georgia State Legislature to help Pace increase funding for its programs in the state. How was that experience?
When I arrived at the legislature meeting, it set in that this was a big deal. However, when I started to testify, my nerves settled. It was interesting to see people care about my story so much. At times, I don’t realize how much I’ve gone through, because I don’t want it to define me, but my story is important. I hope it can inspire others to recognize the power of their own story.
As we reflect during Women’s History Month, is there a woman who has supported you to get to where you are today?
I would say my mentor Ms. Geneva West, who is the Founder of Real I.M.P.A.C.T Center, Inc. — an all-girls STEM organization. After I completed that program, I decided to give back. I taught coding classes, instructed curriculum involving STEM, and even coached a robotics team. Ms. West has taken me under her wing and exposed me to so many events and speaking opportunities. She’s been a really positive person in my life — even helping me through the college application process. She’s amazing.
Another person that comes to mind is my mom. I love my mom. We’ve had our ups and downs, but I’ve seen how her confidence has developed and how she’s trying every day to be better. I admire her for that. Despite many challenges we have faced, I am overly thankful to my parents for raising me to become the person I am today. My love for my family is strong, and I pray every day we grow into the best version of ourselves.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Honestly, I’d probably say, stop being so hard on yourself. You’re doing great. I’m celebrating my strengths, and I’ve learned that vulnerability is one of them. Give yourself the credit you deserve and know that you can keep pushing. Know that whatever you’re going through, you can make it through.
In 2019, Pace expanded into Georgia, offering services to help girls learn healthy coping skills, overcome past trauma and look toward the future. Teen girls who participate in the program improve their skills and ability to make safe, healthy decisions that enable them to be strong, compassionate and successful women. Learn more about the services Pace offers in Georgia.