In October, local PACE Center for Girls students in Lee and Collier counties wrote essays comparing the center's guiding values with those of the Radio City Rockettes. In their essays, students explained what PACE guiding principle most exemplifies the Rockettes and why.
In celebration of their efforts, about 40 students were treated to a luncheon on Nov. 18 including a question-and-answer session and mini-kick line dance lesson from four of the famous dance troupe members, and an afternoon matinee performance of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Both the contest and event were created and sponsored by the Fifth Third Bank Women's Network.
The event began with the announcement of essay contest winners and recitations from the first-place authors followed by lunch and a Rockettes meet-and-greet with Q&A and mini-kick line lesson just before the performance.
"The courage, strength and integrity exemplified by the Radio City Rockettes are some of the key values PACE strives to instill in the girls we serve," said Melissa Simontis, director of development for PACE in Lee County. "We are beyond grateful to Fifth Third Bank for the incredible experience to expose our PACE girls to such esteemed role models."
Madi Agnew, the first-place author from Lee County's program, wrote that the PACE guiding principle "embrace growth and change" is most comparable to the Rockettes' guiding principles, "because they have all had to experience change to reach their full potential as a team, dancers and women."
"Seeking excellence is the PACE guiding principle that best exemplifies the Rockettes," said Brianna Gonzalez, the first-place author from PACE's Collier County program. "They show us that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible."
All of the authors received a goody bag including a bracelet and a Rockettes Christmas ornament. First-, second- and third-place winners received personalized framed certificates and Rockettes pop-up books.
"We are honored and excited that Fifth Third has graciously extended to our PACE girls this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Christina Jordan, PACE special projects manager in Collier County. "Many have never even been to a performing arts hall, let alone had the chance to interact and meet with the stars of the show."
Another special guest at the event was volunteer choreographer and dance teacher, Isabel Castro, who grew up in the poverty-ridden South Bronx in the 1960s and '70s.
Once during a trip to Radio City Music Hall as a child, Castro was invited backstage by a Rockette for a peek at the production. Afterward, she knew she'd become a dancer. As she grew up, she earned scholarships to studios and learned different forms of dance. Today, she uses her talents to teach dance to other underprivileged girls, driving from Fort Myers to Immokalee every Monday to teach dance to PACE students.
"I'm thankful to Fifth Third Bank for giving the PACE girls the opportunity to have a lifetime of great memories," said Castro.
"The mission of our women's network is to inspire creativity, share knowledge, promote professional development, personal growth, and overall well-being of all women," said Kathy Leavesley, senior vice president and marketing director for Fifth Third Bank. "We thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to create such an educational experience."
PACE Center for Girls is a nonprofit corporation and non-residential delinquency prevention program targeting females ages 12-18 identified as dependent, truant, runaway, delinquent, or in need of academic skills.
The Women's Network provides networking opportunities for female bank officers and businesswomen throughout South Florida, and facilitates sharing knowledge and experiences to promote professional and personal development.
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