HERNANDO SUN WRITER
Oak Hill Hospital, a major sponsor of the Pace Center for Girls in Hernando County, recently hosted an inaugural breakfast with more than 160 community members attending the event. Diana Jerome is the Community Engagement Manager for the Pace Center for Girls in both Pasco and Hernando counties. “Pace is a free and voluntary year-round program,” she said. “It’s a holistic, gender-responsive, strength-based, and trauma-informed program model that addresses the needs of girls 11 to 18 years old and has garnered recognition nationally as one of the most effective programs in the country for keeping girls from entering the juvenile justice system.”
Pace, originally founded in 1985, provides an opportunity for young women and girls to create a better future through education, counseling, training, and advocacy. The center has developed a nationally recognized research-based nonresidential program model that features a balanced emphasis on academics and social services with a focus on the future for middle and high school age girls and young women.
The Pace Center for Girls program came to Hernando in 2018 to serve middle and high school girls in the county who are struggling but want to make positive changes in their lives. Located on the campus of JD Floyd School, the program offers services that consider how girls learn and develop, and its many supportive staff members respond to and celebrate each girl’s strength and challenges.
Pace provides academic education through individualized progress monitoring plans and daily instruction taught by certified teachers. All educational initiatives align with the requirements of the local school district. The Executive Director of Pace Center for Girls, Gail Armstrong, talked recently with Lisa MacNeil of The Hernando Sun. “We partner with the district schools because these are girls that are usually going back to the schools,” she said. “Pace does not collect or publish statistics for graduation rates, because the girls who graduate high school are doing so as a member of their district school. When a girl is at PACE, she completes all graduation requirements. She is then transitioned to her zoned school to participate in their graduation procedures and ceremonies.” “They’re walking with the cohort group that never thought they would see that girl walking with them,” Armstrong stated.
Oak Hill Hospital supports and sponsors the Pace Center for Girls Hernando’s mission of providing girls and young women this opportunity.
Katie Stacy, Oak Hill Hospital’s Director of Public Relations and Communications said, “The Pace Center for Girls Hernando program is vital to our community. I’ve witnessed these young girls, who have been through unfathomable traumas and challenges, commit to their schooling and to their daily counseling through the Pace program. They learn to verbalize their experiences and grow from them. They are deciding that who they were and what they’ve experienced does not determine who they can be or what they can do with their lives. “Girls once on the verge of dropping out of high school, or worse, now have dreams of going to college and starting their careers; they’re earning part-time jobs to help them get there. The teachers, all certified Hernando County instructors, and the counselors are able to connect with these young women in a way that lets them know that they have a choice every day to be better and that Pace provides them a safe space and an opportunity to do just that,” she added.
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.
For more information about the Pace Center for Girls in Hernando County, call Diana Jerome, Community Engagement Manager, Center for Girls, Pasco & Hernando, at 727-849-1901 ext. 1908 or email [email protected]