AAUW shares the Christmas spirit

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Group visits Pace Center for Girls in Ocala

By Patricia Woodbury
The members of the American Association of University Women, Ocala branch were feeling the seasonal spirit of giving as they spent part of their regular monthly meeting in December putting together gift bags with personal items and candy for the students at PACE Center for Girls in Ocala. The following Tuesday, members took these gift bags and some snacks and distributed them to the girls at the Center. This was a joyful holiday experience for the AAUW members to be able to give something to the girls who are enrolled in a program that is a favorite charity of AAUW.
PACE—Practical Academic Cultural Education— provides all girls and young women an opportunity for a better future through education, counseling, training and advocacy. The organization first began in Jacksonville Florida in 1985 with ten girls. Today PACE includes 19 Centers throughout Florida that serve more than 2000 girls each year. Guided by research-based recommendations which called for gender responsive programming, PACE created a new alternative to institutionalization or incarceration.
PACE Marion County opened its doors in 2001 and has served more than 800 girls. PACE Marion is funded by the Department of Juvenile Justice, Marion County School Board, United Way of Marion County, local grants, individual and corporate donations plus fundraising events throughout the year.
Currently the PACE Marion Center has 69 girls in attendance from ages 11 years to 18 years. This is a day program for these girls and most of their referrals come from the school system. The ratio of teacher to student is one to 12 girls. The average stay of the girls, in the program is about 15 months. The program provides academic education, counseling, service learning and transition services. Their success rate is outstanding as their statistics from 2012-2013 indicate a 98% success rate for improvement of academic functioning. There was a 94 percent rate for no crimes committed while the girls were enrolled at PACE despite being at-risk for criminal activity. Finally there was a 93 percent rate for transitioning girls into appropriate educational placements.
AAUW is a charitable organization that supports programs like PACE because of their philosophy that each girl or young woman deserves the opportunity to find her voice, achieve her potential and celebrate a life defined by responsibility, dignity, serenity and grace.
The next meeting of AAUW is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 16 at 11:30 a.m. at the Stone Creek Grille, 9676 SW 62nd Loop, Ocala.
The speaker this month will be Jan Hathaway of United Way Marion County. All women are welcome to attend this meeting and learn more about the organization. To attend, please contact Deborah Parsons at 352-237-4889 and let her know so she can advise the restaurant as to how many will be in attendance.