Can you please briefly tell us about your background?
I have been involved in children’s advocacy for more than 30 years through my work in Florida with Pace Center for Girls, and the Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach and in the San Francisco Bay area, through the Museum of Children’s Art and the East Bay Conservation Corps. Through my current involvement in advocacy, I have been fortunate to work with great partners on local, state and federal legislation to prevent girls who have experienced significant trauma from dropping out of school and preventing them from entering the juvenile justice system or involvement in human trafficking. Nationally, I serve on the Legislative and Juvenile Law committees for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. Statewide, I am a Leadership Florida graduate, and locally, I am a Leadership Jacksonville graduate and a member of the Women’s Giving Alliance. In our community, I am honored to serve as the Ponte Vedra Rotary Club’s club counselor for Rotary Youth Exchange, where we send Ponte Vedra high school students on year-long global exchanges and host students from around the world for a year at Ponte Vedra High School.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
As president and CEO, I have the opportunity to work alongside an amazing group of colleagues, partners, volunteers and elected officials to ensure that marginalized girls have an opportunity to change their lives and set themselves on a path to a successful future. Pace started in Jacksonville in 1985, and since that time has grown to be statewide, helping more than 40,000 girls find a path to success across 22 of Florida’s most diverse communities. Recently we expanded into Georgia and now have the opportunity to make an impact in other states. One of the most fulfilling parts of my role as CEO is seeing the impact Pace has on girls, their families and the communities we serve. Pace girls are our next generation of mothers, workforce and community leaders, and it is humbling to watch them find their voice and achieve their potential.
What are some of the challenges that your industry/company is facing?
Every day, we help girls address some of the biggest challenges women face in the 21st century, including gender, economic and racial inequality. Prior to March 2020, Pace was focused on growth beyond Florida and our work on reforming systems that serve as barriers to girls’ success. As a result of the pandemic, we made the strategic decision to focus on our culture of caring, purpose, learning and results rather than multi-state expansion. This pivot was partially driven by a shift in public sector resources in other states, but more significantly because the pandemic had such an impact on our girls and families, who were already experiencing systemic racism, trauma and poverty. Because we cannot and will not stop our work, we continued providing the full school day and counseling and case management virtually, as well as ensuring our girls and families basic needs, like access to food and hygiene products, were being met. While consistent, face-to-face contact will always be our gold standard for nurturing intensive, long-term relationships with our girls, we know it has only strengthened our model to have more effective ways of keeping in touch with our girls and families. Over the past 11 months, we have continued to demonstrate strong outcomes, and our staff has been amazing in shifting how and where they work. Our 21 Pace Centers across the state operate as schools, and we reopened our campuses in August, requiring that we also put significant resources into ensuring our girls and staff remained safe and healthy.
What are your primary roles/responsibilities?
As president and CEO, I am responsible for a combined staff of more than 500 team members in Florida and Georgia, an organizational budget of over $50 million and guiding the overall vision, mission and strategic direction of the organization. In addition to providing direct services to more than 3,000 girls and families every year, Pace focuses on reforming public systems and policies in Florida that result in high incarceration rates among girls. Pace has been a key partner in helping change public policy that has resulted in a 66% decrease over the past decade in the number of girls that are referred to Florida’s juvenile justice system. In 2019, Pace embarked on a national expansion strategy using a community participatory action model grounded in the needs, issues, concerns and strategies of communities to achieve community transformation and social change.
What do you enjoy most about living in the North Florida area?
The amazing natural beauty of the area. From the moss-covered live oaks to the beautiful beaches and Intracoastal, to the Winslow Homer skies, we live in an extraordinary place.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Most days I can be found running on the beach or hiking in the Guana Reserve.