PACE Center For Girls Celebrates Ribbon Cutting
by James Coulter
More than 60 local girls will be able to reach their full potential in spite of the challenges now that the PACE Center For Girls has opened their new location in Lakeland.
Their new 18,000 square-foot facility, located along Tyler Avenue in Lakeland, was dedicated on Thursday afternoon through a ribbon cutting ceremony hosted by the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce.
PACE Center for Girls is a non-profit organization that offers academic and social services to at-risk girls, whether they are struggling with abuse, homelessness, trauma, incarcerated parents, or anything else that would otherwise hinder their educational experience.
“PACE provides girls and young women an opportunity for a better future through education, counseling, training and advocacy,” their website states. “PACE values all girls and young women, believing each one deserves an opportunity to find her voice, achieve her potential and celebrate a life defined by responsibility, dignity, serenity and grace.”
Since being founded in 1985, with their first school in Jacksonville, PACE has opened 19 schools across Florida, serving more than 2,000 girls per year and changing “the life trajectory of over 37,000 girls since its inception”, according to its website.
Their new Lakeland location is three times the size of their former location, and will be used to provide academic and social services to 60 local girls.
Ellen Katzman, Executive Director, credits her dedicated, commited, and caring staff for allowing their Lakeland location to reach as many girls as it has for the past 18 years. She expects the new location to experience great growth with their students and staff now that they have more space to provide more of their services.
“I appreciate the services that our dedicated staff are able to give to the girls in need,” she said.
Lyle Philipson, Board Director, has been involved with their board for the past nine years. He first learned about the organization through a luncheon where one of the girls spoke about her experience and education through their organization.
The growth the organization has experienced during his time has been due to a much greater exposure, as more and more people, especially girls in potential need of their services, have become aware of their organization, Philipson said.
“Basically, the problem we face for many years is that people did not know who we were,” he said. “So over the years, with the help of an incredible staff and executive director, we have been able to change that image within the county. We have been able to help kids who now know what we do now. The idea of putting our image out there of what we are doing.”
Lakeland Mayor Bill Muntz made an apperance at the ceremony to officially cut the ribbon. The ceremony was important not only to redeem a building which he claimed remained dormant for quite a long time, but also to redeem the lives of local young girls.
“This center epitomizes what we want to have happen in the lives of targeted people who are having very difficult life circumstances, and provide skills and training that can change the trajectory of their lives,” he said. “We are at a rocket launch center, so to speak, because we are re-trajectoring lives.”
Michelle-Ledford, Lakeland Chamber Chair-Elect, extended her sincerest congratulations to PACE for opening up their new location, through which they will be able to better accommodate the educational and social needs of many local girls.
“This is a day long coming, a dream of many people on the board and the community,” she said. “For you all to be here today is just so very heartwarming, and I am so excited for all of you of this gift that you are giving to all these girls.”
PACE Center For Girls is located at 213 Tyler Avenue, Lakeland, Florida 33815. For more information, call 863-688-5596, or visit their website at http://www.pacecenter.org/centers/polk