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Panel of Female Community Leaders Speak At PACE Center For Girls

In light of National Women's History Month, five women visited Alachua County’s PACE Center for Girls Wednesday morning to encourage the next generation of entrepreneurs and leaders.

About 42 girls from the PACE center filled the room to watch the panel. The goal was to inspire the girls by these female community leaders.
Hairsha Anaya, an outreach intern at the PACE center, organized the panel because she wanted the students to understand what women's empowerment really means.

“Empowerment is not only about feminist and it’s not only about equality, but it’s about respect, that’s one of the basis’s for it,” Anaya said.

She wants the girls to look at the panelist as women they could one day be.

“I think that it’s going to be able to impact them for any future choices that they might make,” Anaya said.

She hopes it might inspire them to one day become leaders themselves.

“Listening to them got me thinking, what can I do?” Destiny Cooper, a student at PACE center, said.
The PACE Center for girls has been in Alachua County for 17 years.

The center emphasizes academics and social services with a focus on the future for middle school and high school girls.

One of the panelists Kaitlin Deidrick, a junior at the University of Florida, created her own organization called "Be That Girl" at Loften High School in Gainesville. Deidrick and her best friend, Lauren Nagel, started the organization to make an impact on young girls in the community.

“I think that maybe if I can serve as an example, help them, and give them the support that I’ve always had, they can also reach where they want to be in their next step,” Deidrick said.
As of right now, they go to the Loften once a month to talk with a group of 20 girls about how to overcome different struggles and lean on the other girls in the group. They want the girls to feel like they have someone in their corner.

“I want to end the girl-on-girl hate,” Deidrick said. “I think if we work together to help each other there is no reason to see one's success as our own failures."

Deidrick wanted to be a panelist for the girls at the PACE center because she hopes to help them feel empowered to stand up for themselves and each other.

"Being a female, we're very underestimated at times, and sometimes you just need support from each other,” Deidrick said.
Deidrick, like Anaya, said she wants these young girls to know they can do anything, regardless of the obstacles in their lives or where they came from.

"The younger generations... we are the future," Deidrick said, "and it is important to have this conversation (about women empowerment) now rather than later, so we can help girls realize their worth."