By: Tonya Jackson
To honor my promise to respect the privacy of the girls, I will not be sharing their names in this article.
The Pace Center for Girls is a school that is sometimes misunderstood. Pace provides girls and young women an opportunity for a better future through education, counseling, and advocacy. It specializes in smaller classroom sizes and more hands on attention for the girls.
Each member of the staff I met was warm and inviting. The young ladies I met were excited for the future and proud of their successes.
During a recent tour of the facility my guides included three young ladies who have embraced the philosophy of “believing in girls” by believing in themselves.
One of my tour guides took great care in explaining what happens in each classroom and giving me glowing recommendations of each teacher. Her love for this school was obvious and at the end of the tour I learned why. “Before I came here I didn’t know anything about love. My mom had left me and I didn’t know what I was going to do. When I got here I acted out as first, but then I came to see that everyone really cared for me. Now I have a family and I have hope,” said one student.
One of the ways these students are encouraged is through milestone celebrations. “Just yesterday we had a celebration for one of the girls going up two reading levels in four months,” shared one of the administrators.
“We have really nice counselors here. They are available for us and we can share what’s going on with them. They are very motivated to help us stay on track.”
Another student guide added, “Personal stuff stays personal.”
During the tour of the facility I was able to see their wall of fame and my tour guides were reminded that there is room on the wall for their success stories.
The Escambia County facility accepts a maximum of 60 students and is currently a little below capacity. The school is open all year to allow for the needs of the girls as they come and go according to their schedules, with an average stay of 18 months. Currently there are 19 Pace Centers located throughout Florida.
When our tour made it to the backyard one of the young ladies was extremely proud to tell me of the different events they were able to do there. This was also where my guides shared some of their personal history.
“I used to be so angry and fight boys, but here I learned better ways to cope,” shared a guide. Previously she didn’t know what her future would be like, but now she has dreams and knows that she can make those dreams come true.
Believing in girls is paying off.
The Pace Center is also looking for volunteers. If you have time please call them at 850-478-7060 for more information.