Alumnae Stories

Nara's Story

Picture of NaravelisMy name is Naravelis. After experiencing significant trauma, my life felt like it was over. The experience of trying to recover from what happened to me was also traumatic. My attempt at getting justice took a lot out of me. Even after getting that justice, I was still very broken, and I could not function the way I did before. I started to have panic attacks and black outs. I started getting really nervous around people and was always thinking someone was going to hurt me. This affected my school life a lot. I isolated myself and I couldn’t concentrate. My friend at the time told me about Pace, so I went. At that time, I never saw myself completing high school as I watched my GPA slip from a 3.4 my freshman year to a 0.1 my sophomore year. I began attending Pace Center for Girls Palm Beach. With the support of the Pace staff, I not only completed my four years of high school, I also graduated a year early. I’m grateful for the one-on-one time that I received with the teachers at Pace and the motivation from my counselors to keep going. Now I feel there is nothing in life that I can’t conquer.

Whitney's Story

Picture of Whitney standingFor most people the process of growing up is very gradual, with your eighteenth birthday marking the transition into adulthood. For others, adulthood hits you all at once like an atomic bomb being detonated and you are the first responder- you must know how to behave, how to think, how to adapt, and most importantly, to not panic. For as long as I can remember, “survival mode” has been a normal way of life. I was the parental figure for my two younger sisters, who were only two and four years younger than me, and sometimes for my mother as well. We had been homeless on several occasions where we were living in my mother’s car in a Walmart parking lot (to benefit from the security) as well as numerous hotel rooms and spare rooms in her friend’s houses. Despite this, I was always a good student and never got into any trouble- but everyone has their breaking point. I eventually fell behind in school and caught up with the wrong group of friends that rebelled against the teachers. “They aren’t doing the work and aren’t getting in trouble, why should I?” That phrase resulted in being held behind in the eighth grade, my mother pulling me out of school, and being truant for the next year and a half. Just before my sixteenth birthday, she was faced with jail time if I did not go back to school and was given the option of a computer-based alternative school or Pace. Without knowing it, it was the single most important decision I had faced that had the potential to change my life forever. Reluctantly, I chose Pace- and it literally saved my life.

I had been told by several people that I would be nothing but a prostitute and a drug addict, following the footprints of my mother. From my first day, I had a simple goal in mind: “prove everyone wrong.” Pace gave me the space to heal as well as the opportunity to grow beyond what I thought was ever possible. In a year and a half, I learned valuable life skills, advanced four grade levels, and found my love for medicine from our lessons on sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, and a random psychology course that was offered during one semester. I went on to graduating high school on time with a 3.75 GPA and later earning a bachelor’s degree in Cellular Molecular Neuroscience. I am currently a graduate student at Florida Atlantic University where I am completing two master’s degrees in biomedical engineering and biomedical science as well as conducting research to develop a new blood test to screen patients for HIV that is quicker and more efficient than what we are currently using. I will be applying to medical school this summer with hopes of specializing in infectious disease. Though I have worked hard for everything I have accomplished so far, it would have never been possible without Pace!