PACE: Believing in Girls

One in three adolescents in the United States criminal justice system are girls and most of these girls don’t have the tools or support necessary to change their ways as adults. However, for the young women enrolled in the Practical Academic and Cultural Education program, or PACE, there is hope.

PACE Center for Girls is a not-for-profit organization that provides a non-residential delinquency prevention program in locations throughout the state of Florida, targeting the unique needs of females 12 to 18 who are identified as dependent, truant, runaway, delinquent or in need of academic skills.

The girls come from diverse backgrounds and situations. Around 75 percent have experienced some form of abuse, whether physical, sexual or emotional. Some have already entered the criminal justice system, and most have dropped out of school or have failing grades.

This is where PACE steps in.

A National Model for Girls at Risk

PACE students attend classes at the center five days a week, just like any other school. While they follow the same schedule as other public schools in the area, the program affords the girls specialized attention that they would not receive elsewhere.

“The PACE model is so successful because they are relentlessly dedicated to the personal attention and care of each student,” said Sarah Michaud, Business Unit Director at Jabil’s St. Petersburg, Fla. headquarters, who has served as one of the organization’s board members since 2012. “Students don’t get lost in the crowd or numbers. The one-on-one attention each student receives and the small classes are the biggest factors that set PACE apart from other programs.”

In order to be successful, the girls must overcome social and emotional barriers. They are also required to give back to the community and may volunteer with such programs as Hospice Schools, Habitat for Humanity, nursing homes and the SPCA.

When girls show signs of success within the program, they are awarded points. These points can then be used in “Beth’s Closet,” which is packed with clothes for the students, both for necessity and fun. Beth’s closet began in 2007, when Kay and Bob Dillinger started the Beth Dillinger Foundation in honor of their daughter who passed away. Friends, family and strangers donated $25,000 to the foundation. A matching grant brought the total to $50,000. Some of the money funded college scholarships; the rest started Beth’s Closet. In short, the closet provides a way for PACE girls to dress for success.

“About every six weeks there is a ‘closet day’ where every student goes to the closet and shops. Beth’s closet it set up like a boutique so it’s not just a room full of clothes. There’s something for every student, from the fashionistas to the tomboys,” said Michaud. “It’s a great incentive for the students and they look forward to closet days.”

The closet also provides clothing for necessity. If a student or a student’s family member is in need of a particular item, PACE can fulfill it through the closet at any time.

How You Can Help

PACE typically enrolls about 50 girls at a time and maintains a ratio of one staff member to every 12 girls per class. Each child is provided with her own counselor, who works individually with each girl as well as her family. The results are often outstanding.

“Watching the girls achieve their goals and self confidence is why I love being involved with PACE,” said Michaud. “We have girls who have earned scholarships and now have the opportunity to go to college. At a recent celebration at the PACE center, a former student came to visit who is now attending St. Petersburg College. She’s making A’s and B’s, working towards her goals and staying on track. It’s really amazing to see the girls become successful after they leave the program. That’s the whole point – to give them the support and tools to build a better future for themselves.”

For Jabil employees located in St. Petersburg, Florida, there are several ways that to support the girls and their future, such as being a mentor

“PACE has career days where professionals can come in and talk about their jobs, how they got there and how they achieved their goals, both personal and professional,” Michaud said. “From accounting and technology to healthcare, no profession is off-limits. I think this is an especially great way for Jabil folks to get involved.”

The school is also in need of tutors as many students are behind and working to get caught up to their grade level. Another way to help is by donating goods – either clothes appropriate for teenagers or personal care items such as shampoo, toothpaste, etc. Financial contributions are also welcome.

Visit www.pacecenter.org for more information on how you can help.

One Response to PACE: Believing in Girls

  1. Cecilia Tucker says:

    Great article. Your support and involvement in PACE Sarah, are greatly noticed and appreciated.

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