That which does not kill us makes us stronger.
That’s what’s tattooed on the inside of Lillian Stock’s arm. As a 16-year-old, she got this reminder to remind herself that she’s not who everyone thought she would be.
A dropout. A drug addict. No, not “Miss Lily.”
Nearly two years later, at PACE Center for Girls’ spring awards banquet on Friday, she and 25 other girls celebrated their accomplishments. Some were moving onto the next grade level. Others transitioned back into public, virtual or alternative school. Stock, on the other hand, just received her GED from Manatee Technical College.
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Without PACE, many girls wouldn’t be as successful as they are today.
“I wouldn’t have went and got my GED,” Stock said during her speech at the ceremony, wearing a black cap and gown. “Yes, I don’t have a diploma, but that’s OK because it wasn’t because I wasn’t capable of doing it.”
Stock was taken away from her mother when she was 10. The woman she stayed with mentally abused her and her sister, which put a lot on her mind and made her unable to focus at school, she said.
“There was always something,” she said,” and it always was something at home so I would start my day off bad.”
From boys to large classes, Stock said what she really needed was someone to sit with her and help her step-by-step, which is what PACE provided.
“She had the ability and the intellect and we are so proud of her,” said Wendy Hensell, PACE academic manager.
PACE is an alternative education program that contracts with the School Board of Manatee County and the Department of Juvenile Justice.
Eighty-one percent of girls at the Bradenton location, 10 percentage points higher than the Florida average, were failing one or more classes prior to attending PACE. Thirty percent had a prior arrest, according to a 2015 fact sheet on the PACE website.
Hensell said girls who come to PACE in Bradenton deal with family and social issues that make it difficult for them to advance and be successful in school.
“Everything about PACE encompasses everything I believe in,” she said. “Just supporting females and getting the word out that girls can be successful is everything I believe in.”
Ashley Aguirre, 17, will transition to Southeast High School as a senior. She started at PACE in ninth grade and said she’s looking forward to going back to “regular school.”
“I’m just excited to see new teachers and the new way of teachers teaching,” she said.
Aguirre came to PACE because of her poor grades. Distractions were something Aguirre dealt with in traditional school.
“If I’m doing my work and something flies by, I get distracted by it,” Aguirre said.
Aguirre said she wants to go to a four-year college after she’s finished at Southeast and wants to study criminal justice then go to law school.
“Ever since I was little, I said I wanted to be a lawyer,” she said. “I’m sticking to it.”
PACE Center for Girls
Girls celebrated: 26 total: 20 promoting, four transitioning back to school and four graduating.
Annual ceremony: 27th year
Speakers: Ashley Aguirre, a 17-year-old transitioning student and Lillian Stock, a 17-year-old GED recipient
Best quote: “Be here. Be me. Show them you can make them proud because I know I was a pain in their butt,” Lillian Stock said during her speech.