The PACE Center for Girls in Pensacola has an unassuming exterior, but inside they encourage girls to be bold, be strong, be themselves and to be confident.
PACE began in 1985 with one Center in Jacksonville, Florida serving 10 girls. Today PACE includes 19 Centers throughout Florida that serve over 2,000 girls each year and PACE has changed the life trajectory of over 37,000 girls since its inception.
Their mission is to provide girls and young women an opportunity for a better future through education, counseling, training and advocacy. Their Philosophy is that they value all girls and young women, believing each one deserves an opportunity to find her voice, achieve her potential and celebrate a life defined by responsibility, dignity, serenity and grace.
PACE began as a community response to the realization that girls involved with the justice system were either being placed in programs designed for boys or placed further into the system for their own protection. There were no effective alternatives. Started by Vicki Burke and guided by the research-based recommendations which called for gender responsive programming, PACE created a new alternative to institutionalization or incarceration for girls.
PACE is now recognized as a national model for reducing recidivism and improving school success, employment and self-sufficiency amongst girls by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Children’s Defense Fund, National Mental Health Association, National Council on Crime and Delinquency, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
The background of the local PACE Center for Girls Escambia and Santa Rosa: It began at a small facility behind University Mall in 1994. One year later, they moved to a 4000 square foot facility on the Pensacola State College campus. They have enjoyed a partnership with PSC for the past twenty years. In 2013, they relocated to their current 13,500 square foot facility at 1028 Underwood Avenue.
Since opening their doors in 1994, they have served more than 2,000 girls through three distinct components: Academic, Social Services and Transition Services.
Out and About Pensacola had the fortunate opportunity to speak with Sabina who is currently enrolled in PACE. She will be graduating in June of this year. She just moved from Columbia to the United States 2 years ago. She used her translation dictionary to answer our questions.
O&A: How old are you?
SABINA: I am 16 years old.
O&A: Where did you grow up?
SABINA: I grew up in a South American in a country called Colombia, I grew up in the capital which is a very big city called Bogota.
O&A: What brought you to the PACE Center for Girls?
SABINA: I was in public school before starting at PACE and I wasn’t in a very stable or good emotional and mental state. Even though I had very good grades and I didn’t have behavior problems, I made some bad decision which got me expelled and I choose to come to PACE then.
O&A: What do you like most about what the center has to offer?
SABINA: I really like the fact that PACE has a genuine interest in our well-being and they care a lot about us getting our work done, but also care about how we feel. They make sure we’re feeling well emotionally in order to do the best we can academically.
O&A: Tell me about the texturizing project. Whose idea was it and why?
SABINA: PACE has a level system, you have to have good attendance and good grades to increase your level with time, and you also have to meet certain requirements. To be level 4, which is the highest level, you have to come up with a community service idea and work on it with four girls of your choosing from PACE. Thanks to my counselor and to the art teacher that used to come to my school, we decided on helping at First City Art Center. The project consisted in using stencils and plaster to make figures on the wall to decorate the front foyer.
Note: Sabina is the first student to achieve a level 4.
O&A: What did you like about it?
SABINA: I really liked that we could shape the stencils however we wanted to make crazy figures and let our creativity flow with it. I enjoyed using a different medium which I’m not used to. I had never done anything with plaster before and it was a very fun and unique experience that I would like to repeat one day.
O&A: I understand you were able to write on the ‘before I die’ board at First City, what did you write and why?
SABINA: I wrote: Find love, Create art, Graduate, Be happy, grow a garden, and go to a Fall Out Boy concert. These are things that are significant for me and they would give me happiness if I could do them before I die.
O&A: Did you participate in the yarn bombing on Palafox? What role did you play?
SABINA: Myself and other girls spent the afternoon decorating the trees with whatever patterns, words or figures we wanted to put on the yarn. It was a bit difficult for me to do this because I have never been too good at knitting, but it was different and fun.
O&A: What are your interests?
SABINA: I enjoy music, mostly rock of all kinds, from Classic to Alternative. I can listen to a wide variety of artist from different genres because I really enjoy music. I love listening to Classic music as well especially from the baroque period. I like reading a lot, mostly fanfiction. I like romance based books, but not the stereotypical kind. I like art a lot, I pretty much like all art, and I draw almost on a daily basis and would consider myself decent in doing so. I like watching Anime and reading Manga. I really like animals, more than anything I would say. Animals make me incredibly happy.
O&A: Are you involved in projects outside the normal curriculum at PACE?
SABINA: I am currently trying to be included in the volunteering program at the animal shelter, I was doing Hapkido for a long time but I switched to Shotokan karate which is a different kind of Martial Art. I go often to the American Legion of swing dancing downtown and I enjoy hanging out with my friends a lot.
O&A: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
SABINA: I’m just excited to graduate. I am ready to experience new things, whether it is traveling or finding love or a cool job. I will welcome whatever life will bring me.
O&A: Before Pace Center for Girls, where did you see yourself?
SABINA: I did not think much about my future before I got to PACE, I didn’t really care about it so nothing in particular comes to my mind.
O&A: I understand you have achieved a high level of accomplishment within the PACE program, tell me about that and how it makes you feel.
SABINA: I am very proud of myself. I have never thought of myself as very smart and I never thought I could accomplish so much during my high school career. I am satisfied with a lot of things I do.
O&A: Last, but not least, do you want to add anything?
I also really like tacos. I wish I was full of tacos instead of emotions.
Truer words have never been spoken.
Recently Sabina entered an art competition. Her work is titled, ‘Nature of Touch’. http://jeffmiller.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=185563
On March, 11 the ladies of the center and their leaders painted the 17th Avenue train trestle to celebrate Believing in Girls Month.
Here are all the links for PACE Center for Girls: