The center provides girls with education, friendship and an opportunity to explore careers.
PACE Center for girls has impacted more than 900 young women in Volusia and Flagler counties since 1996. This year they added one more accolade – recognition for improving attendance.
“Volusia County awarded PACE for having the highest attendance record,” Executive Director Lori Richards said.
PACE is not a traditional school, students come and go as the needs arise, but new programs are resulting in the improved attendance.
“We are keeping them longer,” Richards said. “Fewer are choosing to leave the first 90 days.”
Learning about each girl’s needs and background, and providing incentives are being credited to the change.
“Our efforts are focusing on how to bring the girls into the program and how to counsel them, and the teachers, so the students are ready on day one,” Richards said. “We would like to take a page from Clay County,” Richards said. “There, students who had 100% attendance for 90 days could receive a salon makeover.”
During the past few years Richards and her staff have developed various programs, including a point system that allows the students to accumulate points and “shop” in the school store for anything from clothing to curling irons, accessories and more.
The store has been moved to the first floor with the help of the Rotary Club, providing more room for items and a location more accessible to where the students start their day – in the cafeteria. Each morning the students meet for social time together, followed by a morning assembly and then classes.
“Local community fundraising by our corporate sponsors and the Association of Volusia Flagler Women Lawyers allows us to do more than just be a school,” Richards said.
Upstairs Susan Miller was organizing scrap books filled with photos and memories, created by the girls in the career group.
“Every girl that comes in has a strength,” Miller said.
While the students, who range from sixth to 12th grade take math, science and English, they also learn practical skills and explore career opportunities.
“We had one student who was looking for a small town, bigger than Ormond Beach, but not a big town, and she was exploring what job opportunities would be in a place like that,” Richards said.
Richards hopes to attract additional volunteers and sponsors this year so she is able to offer more options to the girls.
Students are generally referred by guidance counselors, judges and by word of mouth. The organization works with the Department of Juvenile Justice.
“The support we get from the community allows us to expand what we offer,” Richards said. “Grants and donations allow us to take trips and add things to the point store wish list.”