Keynote Speakers


Dr. Stephanie Covington, Center for Gender & Justice

Dr. Stephanie S. Covington is a nationally recognized clinician, author, organizational consultant, and lecturer. She is a pioneer in the field of women's issues, addiction, and recovery. She has developed an innovative, gender-responsive, and trauma-informed approach to the treatment needs of women and girls that results in effective services in public, private, and institutional settings.

Her presentations, staff-development seminars, and technical assistance focus on systems change and the development of caring, compassionate, and empowering therapeutic environments. They provide professionals an opportunity to learn new skills for dealing with personal, institutional, and societal changes and are always in demand, both nationally and internationally.


Dr. Leonard Sax, Psychologist

Dr. Sax earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from MIT, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa in five semesters at the age of 19. He then went on to the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned both his PhD in psychology, and his MD. Next he did a 3-year residency in family practice at Lancaster General Hospital in Lancaster Pennsylvania. In 1990, he established a family practice in Montgomery County Maryland, just outside Washington DC. He provided care for children and adults in Montgomery County for more than 18 years. He took a 5-year sabbatical, 2008 to 2013, to devote himself full-time to visiting schools and communities, and to writing. He returned to clinical practice in the fall of 2013 near his home in Chester County, Pennsylvania, while continuing to lead workshops for teachers based on his visits to more than 400 schools over the past 16 years.


Julie Carrier, Author

Julie Carrier is a trusted global authority on leadership development for girls.  As the CEO of Girls Lead Worldwide, Julie is leading a movement to “empower those who empower girls and empower girls to empower each other.” Julie is a #1 National Bestselling author of Girls Lead and her award-winning book for girls, BeYOUtiful.

Julie is also on the Advisory Council for the United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up program and has reached millions on national TV as a girls’ confidence coach featured on MTV’s positive goal-setting show, MADE and even received an Emmy-nomination.

She is also a former Senior Management Consultant in Leadership Development for the Pentagon, where she specialized in neuroscience-based leadership education. She supports the world’s leading girl-serving organizations and schools through powerful leadership presentations for girls, curricula, program consulting and best-practice keynotes for professionals. Julie has reached over a million girls and those who care about them at schools and events, world-wide. Learn more at:

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Tia Martinez, Principal- Forward Change 

Tia Elena Martinez has over 25 years’ experience working for social justice in low income communities and communities of color in the United States.  Over the decades her work spanned a wide range of issues including K-12 education, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the war on drugs, homelessness, affordable housing, disconnected youth, and immigration.  She is currently an independent consultant doing work on dismantling the school to prison pipeline and transforming life chances for boys and men of color.  Prior to consulting, she was the Chief Equity Officer at the Stupski Foundation where she designed a R and D effort focused on applying knowledge from the psychology and neuroscience to help low income students and student of color own and drive their learning. Tia came to the foundation from the Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity at UC Berkeley Law School, where she was acting director of education, leading a policy unit focused on issues related to education reform, teacher effectiveness, and racial justice. 

Workshop Presenters & Panelists


Sriya Bhattacharyya

Sriya Bhattacharyya, M.A., is a PACE Center for Girls Alum and a Ph.D. Candidate in Counseling Psychology at Boston College. She works as a Graduate Researcher for the Center for Human Rights and International Justice and as a Human Trafficking Consultant for Project REACH at the Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute. Since her time at PACE, she attended the University of Florida, where she obtained a 4.0 GPA and volunteered with the Alachua County Crisis Center and Arts in Medicine. 

Sriya has become deeply involved in community organizing and activism, working closely with local communities in Boston to combat structural Islamophobia and liberate from Racism. She attributes her feminist roots to PACE, and has always held the PACE model as a great example of gender-responsive, trauma-informed, innovative practice.

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Meg Geltner, Executive Director, PACE Center for Girls- Lee

Meg is widely recognized as an accomplished leader, respected for her tireless work in Southwest Florida in the areas of human and social services. She leads by inspiring vision, offering direction, and supporting individual and collective views. She has dedicated her service to the welfare of humanity and works to eradicate poverty.

Meg has been a pioneer in the social work profession developing programs including residential and outpatient services for rehabilitation, affordable housing and a primary care clinic.

Meg’s advocacy work both statewide and locally has made lasting changes over the years to the health of the disadvantaged through advocacy, education, and research.



Lyman Legters, Senior Director, Casey Family Programs

Husband, father, grandfather…servant to vulnerable children and families, and the public systems that also serve them…loves golf, God, children and Stevey-Wonderful (wife), but not necessarily in that order!

Lyman has been at Casey Family Programs since 2002, where he has managed direct service operations and served as a strategic consultant for the foundation. From 2012 through 2015 he was privileged to serve as a Senior Fellow at the US Department of Justice where he worked on Youth Violence Prevention, Juvenile Justice Systems Reform, Eliminating Racial Disparities and Cross-systems alignment/coordination. At the beginning of 2016 Lyman became Casey Family Program’s Strategic Consultant for the states of Michigan and South Carolina.

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Tasha Golden, Songwriter & Poet


Tasha Golden's public health research and practice is informed by her career in the arts. As frontwoman and songwriter for the critically-acclaimed band Ellery, Golden's songs have been in feature films, TV dramas, radio, retail, etc, and her debut book of poems (Once You Had Hands, Humanist Press) was a finalist for the 2016 Ohioana Book Award.

Now a doctoral candidate in Public Health, Golden researches the impact of the arts—and particularly creative writing—on stigma, trauma, policy advocacy, and public health data. Her peer-reviewed research regarding the intersection of these topics with young women in the justice system has been published by Reflections and is forthcoming from Syracuse Press. Golden has led writing workshops for incarcerated teen women since 2012, publishing anthologies of their poems. She consults/advocates for trauma-informed, arts-based strategies in communities and organizations. 

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Eileen Hogan, M.S., Ed. S., BB & T Leadership Institute 

As a consultant at The BB&T Leadership Institute, Eileen Hogan brings over 30 years of experience to her role of developing and delivering solutions for leadership and organizational effectiveness. Eileen earned a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and a master’s in counseling and education specialist degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Eileen maintains the N.C. Licensed Professional Counselor credential.

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Lisa Huertas, MBA, CFRE

Lisa L. Huertas, MBA, CFRE is a Nonprofit Development Consultant having formed
Lisa L. Huertas, MBA, Inc. after spending more than 20 years in the fund raising
field. Previous positions include Major Gifts Officer at the Community Foundation
for Palm Beach and Martin Counties where she was involved with nonprofit endowment
building and individual philanthropy. Lisa was Director of Philanthropy at
Palm Beach Opera overseeing all aspects of fund raising for the Opera including Major
Gifts, Annual Fund, Planned Giving, Grants, Events and development related
marketing and PR. Before that she was Development Officer at Scripps Florida, The
Scripps Research Institute.


Judge Barbara Twine Thomas

As a judge in the juvenile division, Judge Twine Thomas established a special Girls Court to provide comprehensive individualized services to girls in delinquency.  She works in partnership with the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Hillsborough School Board, the Pace Center for Girls, Healthy Start, Mental Health counselors and other service providers to address each child’s individual needs.  Studies have shown that girls are less emotionally resilient and require special support to recover from trauma. Judge Twine Thomas brings together a range of social service providers, establishing an individualized support team for each girl, encouraging her to move more effectively into a productive, successful adult life.

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Susan Bowen, Executive Training Manager- PACE

Susan Bowen is the Executive Training Manager for PACE Center for Girls, Inc.  As part of the Organizational Development team, Susan has the honor of serving every PACE staff member – providing them with opportunities to grow their knowledge and skills in their service to the girls. 


Susan’s professional journey began as a public-school teacher.  She moved into the field of adult learning in the late 1980s when she joined a team of instructional designers / facilitators to work on a project for the US Navy.  Over the years, she has worked with for-profit and not-for-profit groups and organizations helping others to reinvent their perspective of self, their ability to build relationships, and their approach to organizational talent challenges.


Susan’s partnership with PACE is truly her “heart” work.

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Allyson Ross, Development Manager, PACE Center for Girls- Lee

Allyson Ross passionately pursues excellence, harnessing her talents to generate significant and sustainable resources for the programs and services that help PACE girls change their lives.  A Fort Myers Native, she considers it a privilege to connect her hometown community with PACE through innovative fundraising and engagement opportunities.  She graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University with a degree in Business Management and Marketing. It was her Grandmother Hazel's incredible heart and dedication that inspired her to enter the Development world. Her greatest strengths lie in building capacity to give- through cultivation of relationships, creative and efficient events, and increased community awareness and support.    

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Dr. Sandra Pavelka, Institute for Youth & Justice Studies, FGCU

Dr. Pavelka serves as Professor and Director of the Institute for Youth and Justice Studies  at Florida Gulf Coast University.  She was honored to receive the National Points of Light award in August 2016 and is also the recipient of the 2015 Student Government McTarnaghan Teaching Award at Florida Gulf Coast University.  


Dr. Pavelka is an internationally known restorative justice expert and Senior Advisor on Restorative Justice for the Peace Alliance. Dr. Pavelka is Chair of the Law and Policy Committee for the National Association of Community and Restorative Justice. She is a member of the Advisory Committee for the U.S. Congressional Victims Rights Caucus and Board of Directors of the Florida Restorative Justice Association.


Thalia Gonzalez, Associate Professor, Politics, Occidental College

Thalia González is a Senior Visiting Scholar in the Center on Poverty and Inequality and an Associate Professor of Law and Politics at Occidental College. She is an expert in the field of restorative justice and her work has been utilized by educators, policymakers, county safety councils, think tanks, and bar associations.  As a scholar and advocate, Thalia has specific focus on system reform and policy development.  She has published articles, book chapters, policy reports, and issue briefs in a variety of publications including, New York University Review of Law and Social Change, Howard Law Journal, Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution, Fordham Urban Law Journal, Ecology Law Quarterly, and the Journal of Law and Education.  She is co-author of Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls' Childhood (with Rebecca Epstein and Jamilia Blake) and Gender & Trauma-Somatic Interventions for Girls in Juvenile Justice: Implications for Policy and Practice (with Rebecca Epstein).     

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Rachel Rubinski, Business Manager- PACE Lee

Rachel Rubinski is a seventh generation Floridian who has been working with and believing in the power of girls for nearly ten years.  Rachel has worked with girls in SWFL as well as Morocco during her service in the United States Peace Corps.

Rachel received her Masters Degree in Conflict Analysis and Resolution in 2014 from Nova Southeastern University. In her capacity as Business Manager at PACE Lee, Rachel serves as the Board Liaison. Her innate ability to bring forward-thinking ideas to the table coupled with engaging processes has allowed for the PACE, Lee County Board to become one of the most active and engaged of all the PACE Centers. Rachel received the 2017 Girl Service Award recognizing her dedication to the guiding principle “Honor the Female Spirit” due to her commitment in working with the girls on finding their voice and telling their stories.


Jeannette Pai-Espinosa

Jeannette brings to The National Crittenton Foundation (TNCF), more than forty years of experience in advocacy, education, public policy, strategic communication, program development, and direct service delivery. Today, she leads TNCF the national umbrella for the 26 members of the Crittenton family of agencies, providing services in 31 states and the District of Columbia.

Jeannette is currently; the Director of the National Girls Initiative – Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U. S. Department of Justice and Chair of Chair of the National Foster Care Coalition. Additionally, she is a member of: the Advisory Committees of: Rights4Girls; the Advisory Committee for Women’s Services – SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Family Story; the hope and grace initiative of philosophy inc.; the Intersectional Research Agenda, at the Anna Julia Cooper Center, Wakeforest University; and the National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health.