Find the Great in Every Girl with Rosene Johnson #69
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Today I welcome the executive director of PACE Center for Girl in Orange County, Rosene Johnson. In this episode, we discuss the valuable services PACE offers teenage girls in the Orlando community that might otherwise get overlook. I also chat with Rosene about what drove her to do this work and how you can get involved yourself in this awesome organization.
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PACE helps girls in Central Florida who have suffered from trauma
PACE has been in Orlando for over 30 years. The nonprofit is a safe haven for girls who have had difficult life challenges but want a better future.
Started in Jacksonville by a teacher who saw that there were girls that needed extra support. She saw signs that girls in her school were dealing with the effects of unresolved trauma. Because of these issues, the students were falling behind, acting out emotionally, and were even being sent to juvenile detention centers.
If these issues weren’t dealt with, the toxic cycles the girls were in could affect the rest of their lives negatively. She also noticed that there were programs that helped boys in similar situations.
However, there were none for girls. So she decided to change that and started PACE. Since it’s inception, PACE has served over 40k girls in Central Florida since 1985.
When middle or high school girls come to PACE they’re helped in a variety of ways like mental health counseling, smaller academic class sizes, and academic advisory. This gives a holistic approach to help girls heal from their trauma and improve academically.
“That’s the part that really drew me to PACE,” Rosene told me. “Being able to witness our young ladies grasp such great strength in themselves and realize the greatness that’s always there and we always saw.”
The effects of PACE can permeate all areas of a student’s life. Girls go home and share their new knowledge and skills in their families and communities.
PACE creates environments that help girls succeed
“We are very intentional about our spaces. Environment matters,” Rosene told me.
“When you set an intentional calming, learning but safe nurturing environment for a student. You are able to unlock a level of trust and a level of security a lot of our girls haven’t felt in a very long time. Once they experience that, they are much more likely able to focus on their academics and realize how bright they actually are,” Rosene said.
Students who attend PACE can stay on track with Orange County Public Schools requirements so they don’t fall behind in academics. However, the environment at PACE is quite different than the average school. Because the environment at PACE promotes a calm and nurturing atmosphere, students build new levels of trust and security with the staff, each other, and themselves.
Once some trust and security are established for the student, she is able to have space to discover how bright and talented she is.
For this type of environment to flourish, PACE’s classrooms are not like your average classroom. Instead, classrooms have comfortable seating, meditation, and small group discussions to name a few differences. Teachers also have a lot of flexibility in how they present lessons. This way, teachers are able to tailor lessons to the student’s needs while also adhering to OCPS standards.
Other great additions to the environment at PACE is a definite sense of #girlpower. In the cafeteria, they have a shout outboard so girls can celebrate each other’s accomplishments. There are also inspirational quotes all over the campus.
Rosene is passionate about helping children and youth
Passionate about helping children and youth, Rosene has been working with them for over 20 years. First, in a classroom setting, and then in administration where she saw how everything in a school setting worked together.
Soon, she found a love of working in program development. To do this work, however, she had to find the money for the programs she wanted to implement.
Staying true to her personal drive, Rosene told me “the core of why I do what I do is always about children and youth.”
In her current position as executive director at PACE, Rosene is able to connect to those core values of why she went into education. She also is passionate about helping students stay on track and not get left behind. Her position at PACE is a great reflection of the work Rosene feels pulled to do.
PACE offers help to girls who meet certain risk factors
PACE uses a portrait of risk to describe what a typical girl who could benefit from the program would look like. This helps others identify behaviors an affected girl who could benefit from PACE would need to meet.
PACE girls come from any background, income level, or race, or creed. Generally, some of these factors are:
- The young lady might be presenting with depression, anxiety, or have been diagnosed with another mental health issue and needs support.
- A history or potential history of substance abuse.
- A young lady who is failing one or more classes at school.
Girls stay at PACE for about 18 months free of charge. They rely on resources from the community and private donors to help them do the work. Currently, PACE serves about 50 young ladies. Although, with the right resources, PACE could help so many more girls in the Orlando community. there are so many more girls they can help with the right resources given to them.
PACE gives girls the chance at a brighter future
Ultimately, girls will return to their larger schools after finishing at PACE. The goal is for them to return a more confident and resilient.
Rosene is proud of the girls PACE helps. They become active members in the community, go to college, become gainfully employed, and ultimately give back.
“We’re helping the Orlando community by sending out confident socially responsible citizens into our workforce. Continuing the education and really allowing girls with vast skill sets join the community to improve the diversity. And giving corporations and businesses opportunities to begin to invest in the next generation either philanthropically or through volunteerism,” Rosene said.
“Our effects are long and wide. But it honestly starts one girl at a time.”
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About Rosene Johnson:
Rosene Johnson is an energetic, innovative, results-oriented executive leader passionate about building strong communities and improving the lives of girls, children, and persons with disabilities. Recognized by the Orlando Business Journal as a Top 40 under 40 business leader, Ms. Johnson has built a career developing successful children and supporting those that work with them.
Over her career, Ms. Johnson has developed and implemented successful corporate social engagement strategy leading to increased funding and strategic partnerships raising over $2 million toward the support of children and their programming in the Central Florida Region.
She remains a dedicated public policy advocate for children’s rights, community initiatives with local and state government officials. Enhancing the services for some of our states’ most vulnerable children, she successfully led the transition of a 4,000-square foot facility to a purpose-built and renovated 15,000-square foot facility for individuals with disabilities, garnering over $750,000 of community support. In addition, she led a team to bring Orlando’s first-ever Abilities Technology Expo to provide the latest technological advances to individuals with motor disabilities in greater reach. These advances have led to commercial products currently in development with the National Science Foundation and Full Sail University to help those children with disabilities become more independent and live a higher quality of life.
Ms. Johnson has received gubernatorial appointments in the state of Michigan and in the state of Florida.
She has held faculty positions at Lansing Community College and Michigan State University developing curriculum and programs in the areas of child development, early childhood program administration, leadership and inclusion. She has also served as a program consultant with the University of Michigan, Orange County Public Schools, Scholastic Inc., and several other family and youth service organizations.
A published author and researcher in the child development field, Ms. Johnson was recently appointed by to serve on the Valencia College Board of Trustees, ranked nationally as the top two-year college in the country. She is currently serving as the Executive Director of PACE Center for Girls in Orange County, where she helps teen girls with challenging pasts realize promising futures. Impacted over 100 girls each year, Ms. Johnson leads Pace to provide counseling and academic services for girls in need of support after unresolved trauma and adverse experiences attempt to weigh them down. Her goal to find the great in every girl has assisted the organization in keeping over 95% of their girls out of the juvenile justice system and ensuring that over 85% of them complete high school and move forward to post-secondary education.
Recently cited by the Orlando Sentinel as one of the 10 people that make Orlando a great place to live, Ms. Johnson is an avid volunteer supporting Dream Life Center where she leads their children’s department.
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