PACE Center for Girls has helped more that 1,500 at-risk Bradenton-area middle school- and high school-age girls get back on track since 1989.
Amy Wick Mavis came to the Bradenton PACE Center, 3508 26th St. W., in 1995 to oversee the academic component and was promoted to executive director in 1996.
Working with young women to help them improve their lives is her passion. It is also a gift, she said, to see PACE girls become successful and have a positive impact on their community.
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That impact is one of the reasons PACE Center for Girls was named a Manatee Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year in the nonprofit category.
The holistic, strength-based and asset-building PACE program model addresses the needs of girls and has garnered recognition nationally as one of the most effective programs in the country for keeping girls from entering the juvenile justice system, according to the PACE website.
PACE started in Jacksonville in 1985 as a non-residential year-round school and is now in 20 Florida counties. The first PACE center outside the state of Florida is expected to open soon in Georgia.
Every month we sit down with the girl and her family to see how she is doing, and to see what we can do for them. We work with families around their schedule.
Amy Wick Mavis, executive director, PACE Center for Girls, Bradenton
Academically, the average PACE girl is two years behind her peers. At PACE, she has an opportunity to catch up academically, address some of the social issues that may be pulling her down and leave the school with the skills necessary to make her successful, Wick Mavis said.
Year round enrollment at PACE is about 55, with the typical student spending 18 to 22 months there. The school has 17 full-time staff and five part-time.
Referrals come to PACE primarily from families and other girls, Wick Mavis said.
“For a girl to come to PACE, she has to want to be here,” Wick Mavis said. “Every month we sit down with the girl and her family to see how she is doing and to see what we can do for them. We work with families around their schedule.
“Our model works. We see it in the statistics and the data. That is the good news.”
About 90 percent of girls improve their academic performance while at PACE and have no involvement with the criminal justice system within one year of leaving PACE, she said.
Randi Katz came to PACE Center for Girls in 1997 as a volunteer on Make a Difference Day and fell in love with what the school was doing.
She has worked as a recruiter bringing girls to PACE for 19 years.
“It’s the girls and their families that make me come in every day. I love this place,” Katz said.
PACE is planning a capital campaign to fund an expansion of the facility, doubling its size, and allowing it to increase programming.
“We plan to look at serving elementary school children who are over age as well as looking at developing programs for 16 and 17 year olds who have no high school credits,” Wick Mavis said.
Also included in the proposed improvements would be infrastructure upgrades to allow for more computer technology.
For more information, visit pacecenter.org or call 941-751-4566.