Teddy Thompson, chief advancement officer, PACE Center for Girls Jacksonville
For some girls at PACE Center for Girls, a United Way partner, the idea of attending college is a distant idea – usually catching up with middle and high school requirements is foremost in their minds.
Every girl enters PACE with the potential to pursue her dreams, but most have little exposure to the process of applying to colleges or to what a four-year college educational experience is like. Moreover, she may have been told by many in her life she would be lucky to even graduate from high school. Overcoming this belief can be a barrier for our girls and stands in the way of attaining their goals for the future.
PACE staff is dedicated to helping every girl see college as a viable option. While traditional four-year schools might not be right for every girl, it is important for all girls to understand the options available to pursue their dreams for the future. As of 2018, 91 percent of girls who transitioned or graduated from PACE attended school, higher education, or gained employment.
Educating girls about college begins on the PACE campus, where college representatives visit the centers to talk about the programs and opportunities they offer. Through conversations with college representatives, PACE girls have the chance to become familiar with a variety of schools, educational and extracurricular opportunities.
Each year, PACE partners with several universities, state colleges and vocational schools to host campus tours for PACE girls. These tours give girls the opportunities to see inside dorm rooms, browse through campus libraries and help them visualize what college life would be like. During a recent tour of The University of Florida, girls from PACE Clay visited the College of Journalism and Communications where they saw inside the university’s newsroom, learned from students and professors about course requirements, and even stepped in front of the mic of UF’s own campus radio station.
In addition to each center’s individual college tours across the state, PACE has begun to run larger events where girls from various PACE centers can learn about the college experience together. In July, more than 70 girls from nine PACE centers traveled to Orlando for the third annual PACE University of Central Florida college tour. UCF alum, State Representative Amber Mariano, who shared her college experiences and introduced the girls to students serving in leadership positions at UCF.
Once girls have decided to pursue college admission, PACE assists them with standardized test preparation, requesting financial aid, and the admissions process. PACE also partners with community organizations to help assist girls with paying for college by helping them obtain hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships each year.
Upon acceptance, PACE works with girls to develop a personalized plan that will successfully lead to their college, graduation, which members of Pace staff often proudly attend.
With the support of United Way, agencies like PACE Center for Girls are able to help individuals in Northeast Florida have hope and reach their full potential. Through the power of partnerships, we advocate for initiatives that provide children the resources they need to succeed in school, ensuring equitable education opportunities and promoting lifelong learning. To learn how you can join United Way in the fight for community change, visit unitedwaynefl.org/get-involved.
About Pace Center for Girls
Founded in 1985 in Jacksonville, Florida, Pace Center for Girls serves more than 3,000 girls annually in 21 centers throughout the State of Florida. Pace has received national recognition for its research-based and gender responsive model of program delivery, including academic support, counseling, and life-skills training. The organization has undertaken an ambitious effort to double the number of girls receiving their life-changing services by 2023. Learn more at PaceCenter.org.