Empowerment In Action
A Girl-lead Art Response To Combat Substance Abuse
THE PLAYERS Championship Village awarded Pace Center for Girls a grant to fund a three-year, pilot program in North Florida to provide girls and their families gender-responsive, substance abuse prevention and intervention services.
Through Pace’s Reach Program, the funding will ensure girls and their families receive substance abuse prevention and intervention services. Reach therapists travel to girls to provide services in their home, school or community, and also meet with girls online. Our goal is to ensure that things like transportation and finances don’t become a barrier to providing the services that girls need.
Meet the Artists
“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.”
“I thought I didn’t like art, until this experience. I designed a fairy because you have to grow your wings and take off one day. The message that I want to send is that every girl is unique in their own way.”
"'You Belong Here' means that no matter what girl comes to Pace, she will always have people to back her up and she will always have support from us here. The visuals I chose are a representation of Black culture and how we’re united with other cultures. The girl I drew has dreads, symbolizing the dreads I have currently in my hair. She is wearing a shirt that pays respect to my Papa because he always used to call me the ‘Queen Bee.’"
“I really express myself through art, and this experience has made me happy. I created myself because I want to see myself more independent and more out there. When I was younger, I never really wanted to put myself out there. I never wanted much recognition. I want to be out there more, so I created a character that looks like myself.”
"'You Belong Here' means that no matter what you look like, no matter who you are, you can come to Pace. I really enjoyed hanging out with the other girls and learning about different art forms. My visuals represent duality — two completely different colors but they get along."
"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."
"The message I want to send through my art is 'You are not alone.' You belong here means no matter what you’ve been through, no matter what you look like, you’re welcome here. You shouldn’t feel left out.”
"I had a lot of fun exploring my artistic abilities. I wanted to do something spiritual, so we created a meditation character. ‘You Belong Here’ means that you can come from different backgrounds, but you’re still accepted here."
"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."
"Art is very relaxing for me because you can be free without any judgement. I created my future self. I drew flowers because they make me feel free. They are any color and sometimes they don’t grow — but they’re still beautiful."
Lifting Their Voices Through Art
You Belong Here, co-created by muralist Nico and Pace girls, sends a message of acceptance, shared experience, worth and inclusion. 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.
Guided Listening Sessions
To develop the imagery, Nico guided the young artists through listening sessions where they were encouraged to share a message of growth, healing and inspiration to future generations of Pace girls. Each young artist had an opportunity to add their own art piece to the mural - validating their unique experiences and expressions.
Young Artists Design Mural
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.
Unpacking the Artist's Toolkit
For many of the girls, this was their first experience interacting with spray paint. Nico taught the young artists how to express themselves in a new visual medium, encouraging and empowering their imagination and helping bring their vision to life.
Applying the Finishing Touches
We hope this interactive art project raises awareness of the impact of substance abuse, educate the community on the availability of resources and trauma-informed care to girls, and serve as a symbol of community, empowerment, and resiliency.
Nicole Holderbaum aka "Nico" is a Florida-based visual artist, muralist, creative director, and designer.
Nico trained in art schools and programs growing up, eventually leaving to further develop her career in Jacksonville as a muralist and street artist.
Nico has an established track record as a community leader and youth empowerment enthusiast. She has been awarded extensively for her community activism, recognized in Jacksonville as a "Community Champion" and "Art Innovator'. She has curated and produced art & music events, as well as creating a community program called the Kid's Mural Project, guiding thousands of students across Florida in designing and painting murals. She is also a leading member of Few & Far Women, a global all-female crew of street artists, who have organized mural productions from Mexico to India and aim for women empowerment and inspiration through the arts.
Nico is now currently based in Miami, where she looks forward to growing in a thriving arts community and further develop her skillsets and projects and grow as a creative director.
"By enabling these young artists to express themselves creatively, we have given them a powerful tool to process their feelings, emotions, and experiences. Without tools like artistic expression, it is easy for anyone, especially youth, to turn to other harmful and self-destructive forms of coping. The opportunity to add their own piece to an important work of art validates their unique experience and expression. This chance, in a world where they can constantly feel unheard and under pressure can be truly transformational. Now they have not only confidence, but a tool to cope, and an experience they can share with their friends, family, fellow students, and anyone they care about."
The 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.
Special Thanks To These Community Partners
Vicki Burke, Pace Center for Girls, Founder ‧ • ❤ • ‧ Sabeen Perwaiz, Florida Nonprofit Alliance, President & CEO ‧ • ❤ • ‧ Melanie Patz, President and CEO, United Way of Northeast Florida ‧ • ❤ • ‧ Mary Bolla, Chairman of the Clay County School Board ‧ • ❤ • ‧ Maya Francis, Generation USA ‧ • ❤ • ‧ Leah Shields, First Coast News ‧ • ❤ • ‧ Dr. Diana Greene, Superintendent Duval County Public Schools ‧ • ❤ • ‧ Lauren Brooks, 1010XL ‧ • ❤ • ‧ Melissa Nelson, State Attorney 4th Judicial Circuit ‧ • ❤ • ‧ Ebony Payne-English ‧ • ❤ • ‧ Adeline Azrack, Fondation CHANEL ‧ • ❤ • ‧ Kimberly A. Allen, Ph.D., 904WARD ‧ • ❤ • ‧ Melinda Patterson, Patterson and Teelon Law, P.A., Attorney and Managing Partner ‧ • ❤ • ‧ Anna Lebesch, Senior VP of Strategy and Talent, JAXUSA Partnership ‧ • ❤ • ‧ Mary Warner, Mrs. Mary's Boutique ‧ • ❤ • ‧ Sadie Durham, Ascension St. Vincent's Clay County, Vice President of Nursing ‧ • ❤ • ‧ Delphine Wharton, President Elect, Florida Executive Women ‧ • ❤ • ‧ Nina Waters, President the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida ‧ • ❤ • ‧ Felicia Davis, Concorde Career Colleges, Associate Vice President, Strategic and Community Partnership ‧ • ❤ • ‧ Dr. Tameka Bradley Hobbs, Executive Director, A. Philip Randolph Institute for Law, Race, Social Justice, and Economic Policy ‧ • ❤ • ‧ Dr. Lawanda Ravoira, Founder/President Emeritus, Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center‧ • ❤ • ‧ Kenny and Ash Volland ‧ • ❤ • ‧ Sony Resendiz ‧ • ❤ • ‧ Eduardo Gaitan ‧ • ❤ • ‧ Matt Oistacher, Videographer ‧ • ❤ • ‧ Jonathon Newton, Newton Outdoors Services
Inspiring the Artists
Women in the community shared advice for our girls that we incorporated into the design process for the mural.
You matter. Be confident. Be curious. You have the ability to change the world. Walk your passion and be confident in your voice. Find people who will support and uplift. Be kind to yourself and others. Life happens fast, make it count.
Stay true to yourself because that is where your power lies. There were many times as a teenager where I swayed to fit in or mold to peer pressure. I felt such a dark cognitive dissonance from how I was acting or what I was doing versus who I knew I was. Growing up is learning more about who you are, but the sooner you can hone in one who you are and what you stand for the easier this will be. Your power is in loving the things you love, doing the things you're passionate about and sharing that with others. There is no power in copying or comparing.
Love is the energy of creation distributed in expectation of infinite transition.
Be the best version of yourself. Know you have support, and don’t be afraid to use your voice. It’s incredibly easy to doubt ourselves and ask if one person really can make a difference. But you can, you really can.
We cannot control what happens to us, but we can control what we do with it. Do not let this world take your shine or steal your voice. You are destined for greatness and will be the hero in the story of your life.
Explore every opportunity that is presented to you. It is okay to say "no" but at least you will not wonder "what if" I had taken that opportunity in the future.
When passion meets purpose, greatness is bound to happen. Live within your passion and you will never work a day in your life. Lead each day with the intent to allow your actions to influence. Impact and inspire another person towards living their best life. Always remember that everything seems Impossible, until it’s done. You can do all things, through Christ who strengthens you, so charge on into greatness!
Don't be afraid to ask for help. See your mistakes as opportunities; you will learn the most from them. When someone says no; keep asking until you find someone who says yes.
Get clear on your values and passions. Reflect each day on how well you lived your values in how you treated yourself and the people around you. Say yes to opportunities that align with your passions, especially the ones that make you nervous.
Failure is a stepping stone to success. Never be afraid to use your voice, confidently. Be your authentic self and show yourself grace.
Work hard. Stay focused. Believe in yourself.
If you have a goal, go for it! You are your best friend, and you need to trust YOU. Believe in yourself and the future is whatever you want it to be...but the decision is yours!
Surround yourself with positive, kind, generous people. Be a good friend. Read lots of books.
Share the sunshine. There's enough to go around. Support other girls.
Follow the path of your heart.
You have already have all the ingredients you need to be successful! You have to find out the appropriate measures and combinations of those ingredients. You may have to swallow some bitter bites to find the right balance, but don't doubt that what you need to be successful is already inside you.
Listen carefully to yourself and learn the difference between productive and useless hardship. If something is really hard and causing you pain, journal about it and decide if this tough stuff is teaching you a lesson and taking you to a new phase of growth and maturity, or if it's useless suffering that you need to get yourself out of! Then believe your instincts.
Never allow for doubt, fear, and/or insecurities keep you from being who you are destined to be. Trust in the power that you have within knowing that with it you can overcome any and everything.
Be bold in chasing after your dreams and be prepared to outwork the rest. Surround yourself with positive women who believe in you. Life is precious, give it all you got!
Believe in your voice. You are unique, and your individual voice is valuable and has power. Use it to speak words of empowerment, to help others, and to make a difference.
We still live in a day and time when people assign expectations or limitation to you simply because of your gender. There is liberation in unburdening yourself of other people's ideas for your life. Embrace your power to define yourself for yourself.
Often the things that challenge you the most in life, are the things that make you better and have been put in your life to help you learn and grow. Regardless of the challenges you face, do your best, because if you genuinely are doing your best, it will lead you to where you need to be.
To never give-up on your goals and aspirations in your life. To always treat people with kindness and respect. To keep your FAITH (never let go of your FAITH). To be thankful through the great times and life and not-so-great time in life. Be THANKFUL!
Try to live your life by the Golden Rule - "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". In all things, be kind.
Love yourself first, because once you have accomplished that, you will find it easier to love others. Be kind to yourself and extend kindness to others. Learn to advocate for yourself and once you done that, begin to advocate for those who can't advocate for themselves.