Pace Center for Girls Founder Vicki Burke was greeted with balloons, flowers and plenty of hugs during her November 22nd visit to Pace Center for Girls Marion. Burke was visiting the center in Ocala as part of a statewide tour that will include research for a book Susan Brandenburg is writing about the organization.
Burke spent a couple of hours talking with girls and Pace team members, asking questions and listening, while also sharing stories about the early days of Pace.
“It’s always a pleasure to be with Vicki, who remains one of the most sincere and humble servant leaders I know,” says Pace Regional Executive Director Carole C. Savage. “And to have her visit our center, where she could interact and talk with the girls, was amazing.”
Pace began in 1985 with one center in Jacksonville, which served 10 girls. Today, Pace includes 21 centers throughout Florida, which serve more than 3,000 girls. Since its inception, the organization has impacted more than 40,000 girls.
The organization’s website states that Pace “began as a community response to the realization that girls involved with the justice system were either being placed in programs designed for boys or placed further into the system for their own protection. There were no effective alternatives.”
Burke, guided by research-based recommendations that called for gender responsive programming, created an alternative to institutionalization or incarceration for girls.
“Pace is now recognized as a national model for reducing recidivism and improving school success, employment and self-sufficiency among girls by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Children’s Defense Fund, National Mental Health Association, National Council on Crime and Delinquency and Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention,” the site notes.
Burke was initiated into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame, housed in the Florida State Capitol building, in 2012, as a result of her work with Pace.
“They were so excited she was coming to visit, and she didn’t disappoint,” Savage notes about the girls interacting with Burke. “She joked and laughed with them and told stories of Pace and when it began. But, most importantly, she listened to them when they spoke with her or answered questions she asked. She always keeps the girls as a priority, and that philosophy is part of what makes Pace so successful.”
To learn more about Pace, visit www.pacecenter.org.