Pace Center for Girls, Lee County recently celebrated the graduation of four Pace students with a socially distanced drive-thru celebration.

Pace girls Alax, Chantelle, Shinesha and Sophie were honored during a special ceremony held in early June at Pace Center for Girls in Fort Myers. Pace’s executive director, Meg Geltner, delivered the commencement address and presented each graduate with a diploma, followed by a tassel ceremony. Families, friends and Pace staff lined the parking lot in decorated cars with banners, balloons and signs for each of the graduates. Cheers and car horns filled the air as each graduate was recognized for her accomplishments.

“Graduation day marks a tremendous milestone for our Pace girls. With our center still closed to students and staff, we had to think quickly about how to recognize and honor this year’s graduates,” Geltner said. “These young women worked so hard and overcame many challenges to make it to this big day, and our drive-thru graduation was an unforgettable way to celebrate. It truly was a sight to behold and brought tears to the eyes of everyone involved!”

Pace provides academic programs and counseling services to help girls and young women ages 11 to 18 find their voice and achieve their full potential. The future for the class of 2020 is bright:

  • Alax plans to attend a technical college in pursuit of a culinary degree and one day open her own bakery.
  • Chantelle will attend Hodges University, pursuing a law degree.
  • Shinesha plans to attend Hodges University to earn a degree in psychology.
  • Sophie will attend Florida SouthWestern State College for her associate degree before transferring to Florida Gulf Coast University for her MBA.

Pace’s strength-based programs empower girls who are working to overcome risk factors such as poverty, substance abuse, domestic violence, foster home placement, neglect, grief, incarceration of a family member, mental health and physical, emotional or sexual abuse to celebrate a life defined by responsibility, dignity, serenity and grace.

Since its inception, Pace has helped more than 800 at-promise girls and young women in Lee County find the path to success despite the odds. Alumnae include college students and college graduates, working professionals, mothers and wives, each of whom were able to overcome their respective challenges to become strong young women and productive, contributing members of society. After leaving Pace, 88% of students improved their academic performance, 96% had no involvement with the juvenile justice system within one year of exiting the program and 95% were either in school or gainfully employed.

To learn more about Pace and its programs, visit www.pacecenter.org/locations/lee or call 239-425-2366.

About Pace Center for Girls, Lee County

Since 2007, Pace Center for Girls, Lee County has been providing girls and young women an opportunity for a better future through education, counseling, training and advocacy. The gender-specific, strength-based program is one of 22 Centers throughout Florida, and is known throughout the nation as a best practices model for diverting girls from the juvenile justice system. Pace is a registered not-for-profit organization that relies on the support of individuals, businesses, civic/community organizations and churches in Lee County in order to serve girls and their families. Since its inception, Pace Center for Girls, Lee County has served more than 800 at-promise 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. For more information on Pace Center for Girls, Lee County, call 239-425-2366 or visit www.pacecenter.org/locations/lee.