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Graduation just the beginning for 18 girls at Pace Center

Posted 6/6/24

ORANGE PARK – They came with 18 unique stories of life challenges, setbacks and redemption. But together, they all accepted their high school diplomas Friday – and a valued sense of …

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Graduation just the beginning for 18 girls at Pace Center


Posted

ORANGE PARK – They came with 18 unique stories of life challenges, setbacks and redemption. But together, they all accepted their high school diplomas Friday – and a valued sense of accomplishment that once seemed impossible.

Pace Center for Girls, Clay, celebrated one of its largest graduating classes in the program’s history. For many, the center was the last chance to earn a degree and not become a forgotten casualty of the academic process.

Some are victims of a broken home. Others had poor school attendance or needed more emotional and one-on-one education support. It wasn’t always easy – nothing worthwhile is – but they persevered.

“We are here today to celebrate this huge accomplishment because the journey wasn’t always easy,” said Salutatorian Lillie Troutman. “If someone had told me a few years ago, I would be standing here graduating early, literally, I would have laughed in their face. Before I came to Pace, I was making questionable decisions, giving my parents a lot of gray hair. I was behind in school without any goals.

“We’ve worked so hard today; we all should be proud of how far we’ve come. Yes, we all know how stressful and joyful, sometimes dreadful, it can be. We worked hard, not only academically but also on ourselves.”

Troutman closed by quoting Tupac Shakur: “Our future is our confidence and self-esteem.”

Katelyn Stocks, the Academic Coordinator at Pace, said this year’s class “holds a special place in my heart.”

“I’ve had the opportunity to teach and be taught by them,” she said. “Their work ethic, leadership and persistence constantly challenged us to show up and do our best. It’s bittersweet today because I could not wait to watch you graduate. But it is so hard to watch you go. You are going to do amazing things, and I’m so lucky to have walked beside you during this part of your journey.”