AT&T River City Pioneers create SJR State scholarship for at-risk girls

PACE check
Destani Shadrick

The AT&T Pioneers, a network of volunteers whose mission is to effect immediate, tangible change in local communities, has created a scholarship at St. Johns River State College for eligible students attending the PACE Center for Girls in Clay County. PACE, which stands for “Practical, Academic, Cultural, Education,” is a nonresidential school dedicated to keeping at-risk girls in school and out of the juvenile justice system. PACE, which operates 19 schools statewide, opened its Clay County location in 2015 and currently serves 50 girls.

On behalf of the AT&T River City Pioneers, President Terri Thompson recently presented a $1,000 check to SJR State President Joe Pickens to create a scholarship fund for PACE girls. PACE Executive Director Destani Shadrick and PACE alumna student Dantavia Berry also attended the presentation, along with AT&T River City Pioneers board members and SJR State Orange Park campus Executive Director Anna Lebesch, who said, “We are excited about this partnership with AT&T to help PACE girls achieve their dreams.”

According to Shadrick, the scholarship gift will allow the school to take one more step toward the success of its students. “Their gift plants the seed for what one day will be a scholarship that will fund PACE girls' transition into higher education in Clay County. We sincerely appreciate the love and generosity of the AT&T Pioneers. We thank them for their tireless support and dedication to our girls,” Shadrick said.

Berry, who graduated from PACE in June, is the first PACE student to attend SJR State. “With that check, another girl like me can go to college. She can learn and get an opportunity she probably never thought she would have. It’s just amazing that people take time out of their lives to make sure that we’re okay,” Berry said.

In addition to scholarship assistance, the AT&T Pioneers have facilitated a clothes closet that provides free clothing for the girls on a quarterly basis. “Imagine that -- free shopping!” Shadrick exclaimed. “Our girls look forward to their visits, and many of our girls desperately need the clothes and shoes provided.”

Berry knows all too well about being in need. As she reflected on her journey from a dark past to a bright future, from feelings of hopelessness to exciting opportunities she never expected to see. Berry told the group gathered at SJR State’s Orange Park campus, “I have a job now, a good job at that, and I’m about to go to college. I wasn’t thinking about that eight months ago. I didn’t think I would be going to college. But I became interested after I visited the nursing department here at SJR State. The experience just opened my eyes,” she said enthusiastically. “I realized that maybe I don’t just want to study business. Maybe I want to do nursing, too. I like seeing different things and different opportunities.”

Practicing what she teaches to other PACE girls about expressing gratitude for kind deeds, Berry received a resounding applause as she closed her speech with a heartfelt thank-you. “Thank you, and I appreciate everything that everybody does for us,” she said.

PACE group photo


The AT&T River City Pioneers presents a $1000 check to SJR State to establish a scholarship for students studying at the PACE Center for Girls in Clay County. PACE serves at-risk girls and has a strong track reputation for helping to keep girls in school and out of the juvenile justice system. Pictured, from left to right: Executive Director of SJR State’s Orange Park campus Anna Lebesch, AT&T River City Pioneers Chapter President Terri Thompson, SJR State President Joe Pickens, and PACE Executive Director Destani Shadrick.



Susan Kessler
Director of Public Relations and Publications
(386) 312-4020