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The Impact of Year-Round Mental Health Services for Middle School Girls 

At Pace, we recognize the critical importance of reaching girls in middle school to provide comprehensive, year-round mental health services. Middle school is a pivotal time in a young girl’s life, and addressing mental health challenges at this stage can have a lasting impact on their future well-being. 

Girls today are growing up in an environment significantly different from that of previous generations. The rise of social media, increased academic pressure, and evolving social norms contribute to a complex mental health landscape. Investing in their mental health is not just beneficial for the girls themselves but for the broader community, leading to a healthier, more resilient future generation. 

We spoke with A’laysia, a seventh grader in the Pace Reach Program in Marion County, South Carolina, as she was getting ready for her middle school dance. She emphasized the positive impact of Pace on her life: “I’m happy I’m in Pace because it feels like nobody’s ‘gonna’ judge you. You have someone to talk to, someone who can support you.” 

Alexis Dennison, the passionate counselor leading the Reach Program in Marion County, shared her perspective: “Middle school is a pivotal time for development. By reaching girls at this stage, we can help them build a strong foundation for their mental health that will support them through high school and beyond.” 

In 2021, data released by the National Association of Mental Illness painted a stark picture, reporting that over 56% of South Carolinians aged 12 to 17 suffering from depression received no care in the previous year. Moreover, students grappling with depression are two times more likely to drop out of school than their peers. The data is harrowing, but we know that prevention and intervention can change these outcomes.  

The Pace Reach Program looks different in every community, as it is designed to meet the unique needs of a community. In South Carolina, Pace counselors and therapists come to local middle and high schools to provide mental health support directly to the girls. This approach ensures that the girls receive the help they need in a familiar and accessible environment, fostering a sense of safety and support within their school community.  

While each program may look unique, one constant is the care and dedication of the counselors across Pace. Ms. Dennison is from Marion County, South Carolina and since the age of 10 has wanted to be a counselor and help her community. It is the passion of our counselors and therapists that help make real change in the communities we serve.  

During the interview, A’laysia shared her reasons for joining the program, emphasizing the need for a safe space where she can express her feelings without judgment. She mentioned how the program helps her and her peers deal with the “heavy stuff” they carry, creating an environment where they can relax and be themselves. A’laysia plans to take what she learns at Pace and apply those skills throughout high school so she can achieve her dream of becoming a lawyer.  

Recognizing the growing need for youth mental health services, Pace expanded to Marion County in March 2023. Over a year, we serve up to 40 girls in Marion County, providing individual, peer group, and family counseling sessions, as well as individual goal setting and implementing strategies for future success. Our services are available year-round, ensuring that girls have access to the support they need, regardless of the time of year. This continuous care is crucial for maintaining progress and stability, especially during school breaks and other transitions that can be challenging for young people. 

If you know a girl who could benefit from Pace, learn more about enrollment here: 

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