PACE (Practical Academic Cultural Education) is a  not-for-profit 501(c) 3 corporation that provides a non-residential delinquency prevention program in locations state wide, targeting the needs of girls 12 to 18 who are dependent, truant, runaway,  or in need of academic skills.  These girls are often in situations in which they suffer abuse or neglect.  The objective of the program is to strengthen the girls so that they can enter regular school programs with the skills necessary to graduate and move forward in life.

The Florida Association of Women Lawyers became involved in a program called Breakfast and Books.  Around 2004 Sharon Hanlon and Jacqueline Buyze brought the FAWL program Breakfast and Books to the Collier Country Women’s Bar Association located in Naples.  The current program is a local Naples effort.

Basically the program has developed to a meeting once a month from September through May. The girls who participate are chosen by PACE.  The number varies, but is around 17.  Each girl is given a mentor.  Several of the mentors are members of the CCWBA.  The monthly meetings have taken place on Friday mornings from 9:00 A.m. to 10:00 a.m.   A book is chosen by PACE (sometimes by the girls in the group) and both the girls and the mentors read the book.  Questions regarding the content of the book are given to the participants the week before the meeting and the questions are discussed during the meeting. There is also food!  The real point of the discussion is not to find a specific answer to a question, but rather to let the girls know that an adult woman is willing to take the time to pay attention to them and spend time with them.  The best discussions lead to exchanges of information.  For example one book mentioned a taco and one of the girls had no idea how to eat a taco.  Others have never been in an elevator. There is also value in showing the girls there is a life beyond being 14 and thinking boys are the answer to life’s problems.

The meetings were originally held in local bookstores in Naples, but due to the closing of so many of them, the meetings, through the generosity of a local law firm, have been held in its conference rooms.   A permanent home would be appreciated!

This is a worthwhile program that can potentially guide a young woman onto a good path.  If you are interested in becoming a mentor, contact Shelley Rhoads Perry.