You could see their faces light up with smiles as the three girls walked into the room and spied the table covered with an assortment of hair care items. The hair dryers, shampoo, conditioner, barrettes and other “goodies” were a gift from the Hernando/Citrus Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee to the young ladies at the Pace Center for Girls in Spring Hill.
Pace operates centers throughout the state. It receives approximately 47% of its funding from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, 23% comes from the Department of Education and the rest comes from corporate and individual donations.
The organization works with middle and high school girls who have emotional or academic issues and need more one-on-one attention than they would normally receive in a regular academic environment. The ratio of adults to students in the classrooms and in all settings at the center is 1 to 14. The program focuses on academics, along with social and emotional development and leadership skills.
Each girl has an individualized academic plan geared to her strengths and weaknesses. Regarding behavior and attitude, the young ladies work their way up through five different levels. With each level, they receive rewards, as well as more responsibility and more privileges. It is non-residential, but the students attend year round. This enables them to sometimes surpass their peers who attend school for nine months only.
The hair care items were collected by the women who attended the District 5 Women’s Leadership retreat and by some of the people who work in the District 5 Farm Bureau offices. District 5 covers Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Polk, Lake and Sumter counties.
Valerie Ansell, one of the members of the Leadership Committee, and Hernando/Citrus Women’s Committee Chair Joan Casey spearheaded the project.
“Part of our mission is to serve women and children. Besides this project we’ve collected books for the Redlands Migrant Christian Association. Other outreach projects include a youth speech competition on a topic related to agriculture. We also do tours of farms,” remarked Ms. Ansell.
The women also plan to donate money to each of the Pace centers in their district to build pollinator gardens. They will help the girls plant flowers that will attract butterflies and other friendly insects.
Ms. Xonjenese Jacobs, the Social Services Manager at the Spring Hill Pace Center, spoke like a proud mother when she described the accomplishments that the young ladies have made while in the program. She conveyed an easygoing and friendly manner as she related the field trips that the girls have been part of and the other rewards that they receive when they attain a milestone.
Although the hair care items might not seem like a big deal to many people, the three fifteen year-old girls who were present at the get-together expressed their appreciation for the thoughtful donation.
“Cat,” who has been in the program for eight months and is at the second level of achievement, remarked, “It’s great. You guys are awesome.”
“I feel very excited and overwhelmed,” commented Julia, a third level student who has been at Pace for sixteen months.
Maegan, a fourth level student, who has also been in the program for sixteen months stated, “I’m absolutely ecstatic and grateful for all of you. It really means a lot.”
Cat, Julia and Maegan are an inspiration and shining examples of how young people can turn their lives around given the right environment. Social service agencies such as Pace are a vital component of our community and merit all the support we can give them.
For more information on Pace Centers for Girls call 352-533-1012 or go to www.pacecenter.org.
To find out more about the Florida Farm Bureau go to www.floridafarmbureau.org.