Donation Provides Funding for New STEAM Room at Pace Polk
LAKELAND — Pace Center for Girls senior Jaszmyne, 18, has been having fun working with a 35-mm camera and a three-dimensional printer in the center’s new science, technology, engineering, art, music and math lessons (STEAM) room.
“I was helping them adjust it so they could get it into focus,” said Jaszmyne about the camera, adding that she printed out a Michael Jackson sculpture on the 3D printer. (The center requested that her last name not be used.)
The Pace Center for Girls in Lakeland bought some NASA-level tools recently to help students with their STEAM skills — all thanks to a donation from Nick and Ashley Gibson Barnett.
“We are so pleased to see the Center for Collaboration come to life for the girls at Pace’s Polk center,” the Barnetts said in a prepared statement. “We’ve been inspired by the work Pace is doing for girls, and we’re incredibly honored to contribute to these efforts by funding this makerspace for STEAM learning. We truly believe the future is female and education is the key to help girls find their passions early on.”
The Barnetts donated $30,000 for the center, which includes computers, the 3D printer, the 35-mm camera, a photography and video studio and artificial realty goggles. Nick Barnett is the grandson of Publix founder George Jenkins and the son of Carol Jenkins Barnett and Barny Barnett, Lakeland philanthropists.
Pace is a year-round school for girls ages 11 to 18 and provides academic and social services during regular school hours in a safe, supportive environment tailored to girls’ needs. They emphasize relationships, relevant life skills and the cultivation of girls’ strengths. A low team member-to-girl ratio allows staff to get to know each girl as an individual.
The Pace Center for Girls recently celebrated its 20th anniversary in Lakeland and the organization’s 35th anniversary. It was founded in 1985 with 10 girls at one center in Jacksonville and has grown to serve more than 3,000 girls each year in 22 locations in Florida and Georgia — helping more than 40,000 since its inception and becoming a leading advocate in the state for the needs of girls.
Executive Director Ellen Katzman said Pace Center for Girls Polk is the first center in the state to obtain a STEAM center. She added that the Oculus artificial reality goggles will be incorporated into every class at the center.
"There’s a program. So, say you want to go to Africa. We can take you anywhere around this world and show you parts of the world they may never get to experience,” Katzman said. "The concept for this center is to be utilized, for the girls have an opportunity to go in – earning the privilege to go in.”
Jaszmyne said one of the classes at the school that has helped her the most has been Spirited Girls.
“It helps prepare you for life in the real world, like interviews,” she said, adding that she is glad she has had a chance to work with the new equipment, knowing it will help her in the fall. That’s when she will begin attending the Savannah College of Art and Design, one of the most prestigious art schools in the country.
“I’m still working on that,” she said when asked if she had obtained a scholarship.