Pace Center for Girls getting ready for big changes

By Nick Blank nick@claytodayonline.com
Posted 6/22/22

ORANGE PARK – Pace Center for Girls Executive Director Cristina Helbling and her team are in the process of shifting the center to a new facility on College Drive.

The groundbreaking was about …

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Pace Center for Girls getting ready for big changes

Posted

ORANGE PARK – Pace Center for Girls Executive Director Cristina Helbling and her team are in the process of shifting the center to a new facility on College Drive.

The groundbreaking was about two years ago, and now Helbling and her team are aiming to open the building in a few months. They are currently located on Blanding Boulevard.

Helbling, who’s been on the job for nearly six months, said the center needs space and the new building will give them a platform to enhance their services.

“When we’re in the new building, we’re going to have state-of-the-art technology, things we can do to make learning more innovative,” Helbling said. “There's a huge backyard. We can use it for therapy sessions and activities we can do with the girls.”

Like several other nonprofits, the center is heading to the College Drive corridor. The center’s Business Manager, Carolyn Krall, is a part of the College Drive Initiative.

“There’s incredible momentum. It’s a group of individuals working to make it the best we can be,” Helbling said. “We’re really happy to be a part of it.”

Looking toward the future, Helbling said there are possibilities of partnering with their new neighbor, St. Johns River State College.

“Think about what we’ll be able to do when we’re right down the road from St. Johns River State,” Helbling said.

Helbling, who spent most of her career in higher education, has been the director of Pace Center for Girls since January. The center and its mission fit nicely with what she wanted to do, she said.

“The idea that we’re supporting girls, so they can make positive changes and affect their communities, felt very rewarding and good to me,” Helbling said.

Clay County Emergency Management Director John Ward is on the Pace board. He spoke highly of Helbling and her stewardship of the school.

"Since joining the team in January, Cristina has already brought innovative change to Pace Clay,” Ward said in a statement. “Her leadership will meet the needs of the next generation of girls in Clay."

Pace is more than academics, Helbling said. The center has 51 at-risk girls between the ages of 11 and 18 with wrap-around services like counseling. The non-academic teaching can range from coping skills, anger management, financial literacy or nutrition. Helbling uses words like “holistic” when describing the center’s efforts, something most schools don’t have the resources to do.

“I think we need to meet them where they are and everyone is in a different space,” she said. “The size of our program allows us to do that … we’re very fortunate because we can really help them make great progress and great gains.”

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