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HomeAt Home & BeyondNew Pace Hernando Executive Director

New Pace Hernando Executive Director

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Xonjenese Jacobs is the newly appointed executive director of Pace Hernando, (Pace Center for Girls), the local division of a nationally-recognized non-profit organization that provides education, counseling, training, and advocacy for girls and young women. Jacobs’ record of serving girls in need has spanned over two decades. “Xonjenese has made a tremendous impact at Pace Center for Girls, supporting and advocating for thousands of girls and young women throughout Florida,” said Mary Marx, Pace president and CEO. “Her leadership and passion will continue to make a remarkable impression on our girls, their families and the broader Hernando community.”

With nearly 20 years of nonprofit and social service experience, Jacobs has served Pace in various roles throughout Pasco, Jacksonville, Hillsborough, and Hernando. She now marks a grand return to Pace Hernando after serving as the Associate Director of Program Performance at Pace’s national office, where she supervised programming across Pace’s 21 centers throughout Florida. “When girls and young women have access to trusted support they have the opportunity to reach their highest potential, leading to positive outcomes for themselves, their families, and communities,” said Jacobs. “It’s an honor to lead Pace Hernando and empower our next generation of girls and young women.”

In addition to her work at Pace, Jacobs has worked in the area of educational and mental health services for underserved communities through roles at Hillsborough County public schools and the University of South Florida’s College of Public Health and School of Social Work. Jacobs holds a Bachelor of Social Work, Master of Public Administration, Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace Certification. Currently, she is pursuing her Doctorate in Public Health and reporting on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health among African American adolescent girls. Jacobs shared, “I went to school for social work and I know that I wanted to work for a nonprofit agency.”

But Pace, which assisted 88 girls in the past year in Hernando County, is her home base. “I was an intern at Pace originally, then moved up to the role of counselor, and then as an assistant director of public relations and I was there for the 2018 opening of the Hernando center of Pace,” Jacobs shared.

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What keeps bringing Jacobs back to Pace? Jacobs states, “It’s all about the girls, it brings me so much joy to help them.” And the joy shines through, in the eyes of Pace officials. “For many girls in Hernando County, coming to Pace is one of their first opportunities to have their mental and emotional health needs met,” said Gail Armstrong, senior director of Program Performance at Pace Center for Girls and former executive director of Pace Hernando. “I look forward to seeing Xonjenese continue to expand our model in Hernando and reach more girls.”
Founded in 1985, Pace provides free year-round middle and high school academics, case management, counseling, and life skills development. This takes place in a safe and supportive environment that recognizes and deals with past trauma and builds upon girls’ individual strengths. Dedicated to meeting the social, emotional, and education needs of girls, Pace has a successful and proven program model that has changed the life trajectory of more than 40,000 girls and is recognized as one of the nation’s leading advocates for girls in need. Jacobs takes particular pride in the way that Pace offers scholastic courses and counseling sessions to girls in need, along with mentorship and donations of needed items. “Through Pace, we help them to learn, to grow, to develop,” she said. “We’re responsive to their needs.”

Jacobs foresees a bright future for Pace, both at national and local levels. She stated, “We’re now expanding to offer more day centers in more states; everywhere we’re expanding services, offering more services to more girls. And here in Hernando, we’re getting the girls started with their school year.”

As the school year gets underway, Pace’s team of certified instructors will be available to tutor girls in academic subjects and life skills. Therapy is also available for those who need it. “Depending on what the girls need, we also provide for their basic needs. We offer one on one, personalized care,” said Jacobs. “With the help of community donations, we provide them with feminine products, school supplies, and food for them and their families. Helping families in crisis is always a focus at Pace.”

Jacobs also is excited about a newly developed Pace program that takes the girls on college tours of local campuses. “We recently took the girls to UCF (University of Central Florida) for their first college tour,” she said. “They were so thrilled.”

There is a lot more in store for Hernando’s Pace program in the near future. “We want to cultivate more community partnerships here in Hernando,” shared Jacobs. “We want to find community service projects for the girls, and we want to develop more relationships with those who want to know about Pace.” Indeed, Jacobs cites the favorite part of her job as the change that Pace can make in the lives of the girls they support. “We had one client who walked around with her hair in front of her face, so shy,” she said. “She went on to get a college degree and she’s a teacher at USF (University of South Florida).”

This is the kind of result that Pace strives to see in every client. “Every girl has talent and potential, we just need to bring it out,” said Jacobs. “That’s what we strive for, the turn-around in their lives.”

To partner with, contribute to or support Pace for Girls, visit https://www.pacecenter.org/get-involved. For more information about Pace Hernando or if you know a girl who could benefit from Pace, please visit https://www.pacecenter.org/locations/hernando.

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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