Appendix: PACE Center for Girls|
Started by five community volunteers dedicated to making changes in the juvenile justice system, PACE (Practical Academic Cultural Education) opened its doors in 1985 as an alternative to institutionalization or incarceration for delinquent girls. The organization that began with $100 in a bank account and a borrowed room in a Jacksonville church has grown to include 12 centers across Florida, each one offering a fully accredited high school program. Expansion plans are underway to operate PACE centers in all 15 juvenile justice districts in Florida by the end of 1998.
PACE aims to improve the lives of girls at risk of delinquency by enabling them to further their education and become productive citizens. Education is considered the key to helping girls develop self-esteem, envision a positive future for themselves, and overcome life challenges and family dysfunction.
The majority of PACE staff members are female, although each site typically employs at least one man. Staff members at each center tend to reflect the local community's ethnic composition. New staff spend two weeks in training, often in the form of job shadowing. During their first year, employees must participate in 120 hours of training. Inservice training is ongoing and provided at least monthly. Gender-specific topics make up about 60 percent of staff training, and even general topics are presented with special emphasis on how they relate to adolescent girls. Each PACE Center employs an executive director, administrative assistant, program manager, social services manager/ clinician, teacher advisers, and social workers.
An open referral procedure means that girls can be referred to PACE by juvenile court, family members, teachers, or others. They must meet minimum criteria to be considered, and most centers have long waiting lists. The typical girl at a PACE center has not thrived in a traditional school setting because of a myriad of social and emotional issues. She is either behind in school or has been expelled. Seventy-five percent of the girls live at the poverty level; 45 percent are from single-parent homes; 61 percent have committed status offenses. Most have been exposed to a number of risk factors for delinquency, including physical or sexual abuse (60 percent), and drug or alcohol use (65 percent).
Once a girl enters the program, she undergoes a thorough needs assessment, including an initial home visit. Individual plans are developed to outline each girl's educational needs and address treatment concerns. Home visits are scheduled at least once each month, and families are encouraged to participate in the client's treatment. Each student is assigned a primary advisor who is on-call 24 hours a day.
Girls attend PACE classes for six hours a day, four or five days each week. In addition, they may participate in counseling, group therapy, and community service projects. The curriculum, known as SMARTGIRLS! (Students Making A Right Turn), consists of six academic modules that encourage positive life choices. Girls learn the importance of using correct language; are taught to appreciate cultural differences; study career awareness and planning; learn to make healthy choices regarding sexual activity, nutrition, drugs, and alcohol; identify the cycle of violence; and learn to solve problems peacefully. Finally, students serve as peer counselors to teach others in their school and in their community about healthy choices. Throughout the curriculum, girls develop self-esteem, learn decisionmaking skills, and build positive relationships.
Girls complete the PACE program either by completing their high school education or becoming ready to return to traditional school. Transitional services and support continue for up to three years after girls leave the PACE program.