Alice Brunner joined PACE Center for Girls of Lee County in August of 2009 as Academic Manager, with oversight of 6 teachers and the academic program of the agency. In December 2009 she was appointed Executive Director. With over 20 years in higher education prior to PACE, including 13 years at Florida Gulf Coast University, she brought an understanding of the need to support young women with both education and counseling. During her service in higher education, Dr. Brunner was a personal, academic and/or career counselor to countless first-year college students. Later she became an administrator in Student Affairs and was instrumental in the development of first-year programs that supported freshmen during what is known as the “riskiest” year of the 4-year college experience. She also taught strategic learning, education, and personal development courses.

 

At PACE, Dr. Brunner’s focus has been on building a team who work professionally with at-risk girls and young women. Part of a statewide organization with Centers in 17 counties, PACE Center for Girls, Inc. is a nationally recognized juvenile delinquency prevention and intervention program for teenage girls facing challenges such as physical, sexual and emotional abuse, foster care, academic failure, and delinquency. Understanding the link between victimization and delinquency, PACE offers individualized and strength-based education, counseling and career readiness through a gender responsive approach that centers on the emotional and physical safety of each girl.

 

PACE Lee is the only non-residential, gender specific program for at-risk girls in the county. PACE Lee opened its doors on February 5, 2007, and has since offered nearly 400 girls the unique opportunity to develop into healthy and positive individuals while furthering their education, developing their confidence and finding their voice.

 

PACE Lee’s most recent outcome report shows that 94% of girls increased their academic performance and have no involvement with the criminal justice system a year after transitioning from the day program. As a result, PACE reduces the significant long term costs associated with teen pregnancy, substance abuse, unemployment and long term economic dependency.

 

But there is still a lot of work to do…

 

In Florida; over 20,000 girls will enter the juvenile justice system this year. The incarceration rate of girls is increasing faster than any other demographic; 32% of girls are committed to the justice system out of all committed, yet only 5% of the funds are allocated to girls. It is reported that 75% of girls are committed for non-felony offenses compared to 50% of boys. Of the girls committed, 60% have endured physical or sexual abuse, 90% have mental health issues, and 30% have experienced pregnancy.

 

Shockingly, 50% of girl arrests occur before 12 years old, and failure in middle school is the single greatest indicator that a girl will enter the juvenile justice system. Furthermore, entry into the juvenile justice system is the greatest predictor that a girl will enter the adult system. These startling facts are evidence that our community needs to redirect resources from building and funding prisons to prevention programs such as the PACE Center for Girls.

 

The benefits extended to the community are tremendous. It costs nearly $45,000 a year for each girl placed in a residential juvenile detention center, and only approximately 25% of girls remain out of trouble after leaving detention. In contrast, a girl can be served at PACE Center for Girls for less than $15,000 a year. Therefore, not only does PACE save taxpayers $30,000 per year per girl, PACE statewide averages a 90% rate of success for keeping girls in school and out of the juvenile justice system.

 

To help PACE provide all girls the opportunity to find their voice, achieve their potential and celebrate a life defined by responsibility, serenity and grace, visit www.pacecenter.org or call (239) 425-2366 for more information.