|Posted by Anne Siren on December 14, 2012 at 2:25 PM|
Pace Center for girls is a non profit corporation that provides a non-residential, delinquency prevention program geared to the unique needs of young women at risk. The girls are targeted a number of ways as being in need of a safe, nurturing and therapeutic environment. The purpose of Pace Center is to intervene and prevent girls from school withdrawal, juvenile delinquency, teen pregnancy, substance abuse and welfare dependency.
Touring the Pace Center with Kathleen Ryan, development director, gives the visitor a look into classrooms, media and art center, counseling offices, staff offices, auditorium, dining facilities and more in the attractive center under the leadership of Executive Director, Aggie Pappas.
Located at 2225 N. Andrews Ave. in Wilton Manors, it’s apparent that the staff dispenses love, dedication, positive thinking, support and education --a successful formula for the 80 girls attending the center.
Ryan explains. “From day one, each girl has a counselor, a social service life skills counselor in addition to a full education program. We feel these are young women of courage who are motivated to succeed and they receive the help they need from us to do so. They are with us year ‘round from Monday through Friday from 8:30 to 3 p.m. All subjects are taught by certified teachers from sixth to 12 grade. This team approach insures that our girls are well prepared to transition to a regular commercial school, or at graduation they are ready to enter college or begin a career.”
The average stay at the Pace Center is one year and a half, although some students are encouraged to remain for two years. The girls are mostly referred to Pace by family, school counselors, medical professionals, and sometimes they request consideration themselves because they have heard about Pace’s support system. The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and School Board of Broward County fund approximately 75 percent of this totally volunteer program. The remaining financial support comes from individuals, businesses, community organization and corporate foundations.
As Development Director, Ryan spends much of her time working with donors, writing grants, arranging for special events and fundraisers. She says, “We just had a wonderful and successful 20th anniversary celebration, titled ‘Year of the Dragon.’ The dragon is a symbol of good fortune which fits with the Center’s approach. Held at the Hyatt Rgency Pier 66 for 170 people, it was a financial and social success with dinner, dancing and silent auctions. The total amount raised has not yet been announced.”
She adds, “ We do about five fundraisers a year. A luncheon, ‘ Believing in Girls’ features our girls. We do a Chefs for Pace Cook-Off at Hughes Culinary in Oakland Park which is another success. In our 20 years in existence, we have provided services for 2,500 girls. One member of our second class held 18 years ago, now serves on our board.”
Ryan says, “Although the day program is the heart of our center, our well qualified counseling staff is open afternoons and evenings for girls 8 to 18 and families. Everything we do here is strength based and gender responsive to young females and their special needs.”
Pace operates 17 centers throughout Florida and one Reach program. Since its creation in1984, Pace has served over 21,000 girls. Every girl at Pace sets individual educational and social goals that are focused on earning a high school diploma or GED, re-entering public school, attending college, getting vocational training, joining the military or entering the private work force. After program completion, Pace continues to monitor each girl’s education and personal development with three years of follow up case management.
Pace has come up with some statistics that prove its program works. “It costs an average of $42,500 per year to incarcerate a youth with only a sobering 25 percent success rate. At Pace, the average cost per girl is $12,500 per year for enrollment with a proven 88 percent five year success rate.”
Pace began as a community response to the realization that girls involved with the justice system were either placed in boys’ programs or further into the system for their own protection. Started by Vicki Burke and guided by research-based recommendations which called for gender responsive programming, Pace created a new alternative to institutionalization or incarceration. Pace is now recognized as a national model for reducing recidivism and improving school success, employment and self-sufficiency among girls.
Readers are encouraged to alert friends and families to the services Pace offers to the community. Attend a free tour, held monthly at the Center.
Here’s what two volunteers had to say:
Toby Manke says, “I’ve been working with the girls for over three years and it’s been both challenging and rewarding. The girls come to Pace with individual needs, and some have anxieties about working with someone they do not know. In the end, it is very rewarding to see them change from shy, hostile, scared girls to self-confident young women ready and able to achieve their goals and to feel that maybe you have been part of their growth.”
Barbara Wagner is a lawyer, a volunteer who also serves on the Board of Directors. She explains, “I’m part of a Women’s Lawyers Group who has a book and breakfast program with the girls that lasts for 10 weeks. We read and discuss a book and it’s wonderful for the girls to meet all female lawyers. They relate to us as role models as we discuss the book week after week. Right now we are reading Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. Our group has done this six times in the last six years. Their favorite book was The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls.”
Wagner continues, “Because Pace is so near my office, I am going to start going in once a week to tutor on a one-on-one basis. I admire the staff so much because they are so dedicated and caring for the girls.”
Thank you for your contributions to Pace.
Donations are welcome and can be made online or by mail. Send to Pace Center for Girls Broward, Leo Goodwin Campus, 2225 N. Andrew Ave., Wilton Manors, Fl. 33311. Phone 954-561-6939. Web site:www.pacecenter.org/broward
To volunteer, call 954-561-6939.