The PEARSON Foundation (acronym stands for People Employing Available Resources to Strengthen Our Neighborhoods) is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit community organization that provides holistic after-school and in-school tutoring and mentoring to at-risk youth in the under-served neighborhoods of Jackson, Pearl, Brandon, Flowood, and Richland, Mississippi. Our physical location: 206 OLD WHITFIELD ROAD, PEARL, MISSISSIPPI 39208; Our mailing address: P. O. BOX 54056, PEARL, MISSISSIPPI 39288. Our mission is to help youth and their families transform in five key areas over the time they are with us: educational, emotional, spiritual and social. We accomplish this by providing targeted programs and activities for them using a Prayer-Care-Share mentoring approach.
PEARSON leases a 3500 square foot building on a three acre campus in Pearl, Mississippi. Our physical location: 206 OLD WHITFIELD ROAD, PEARL, MISSISSIPPI 39208; Our mailing address: P. O. BOX 54056, PEARL, MISSISSIPPI 39288.
PEARSON uses creative programming to address those key issues plaguing the community, focusing on excellent and creative after-school and mentoring programs serving at-risk students K-17; a Summer English and Mathematics Institute; an in-school Youth Leadership/Mentoring Program; and several adult initiatives designed to meet felt-needs such as Parenting training, a Fatherhood Initiative and GED Laboratory. Many of Pearson's initiatives have been praised by residents and community developers alike as "model" programs with measurable successes.
PEARSON was incorporated in late 2000 following an assessment of the dire conditions that existed in the Carver community in Pearl, Mississippi (drug abuse among youth, teen pregnancy, crime, exorbitant school dropout rate, etc.) Since the survey included the Pearson community, an acronym was created out of the name when the Foundation began.
A community needs assessment conducted in 2002 by a team of parents, health care professionals, businessmen, faith-based organizations and school officials indicated a multiplicity of problems among teens such as drug use/abuse and associated problems including violence, crime, family deterioration, and illiteracy. We focused on these aspects of the survey at PEARSON: One-hundred percent of those surveyed believe the greatest need for youth are youth-related programs such as tutorial/education (50%), and after-school activities (21.43%). Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed said one of the greatest needs in the community was parent training. It became clear that we needed to begin by addressing the needs of at-risk youth K-12, and reach their parents as we reach them.
Programs: The PEARSON Foundation provides an array of targeted services and activities:
The Vanessa Jenkins-Stewart Learning Institute, comprised of:
After School Tutoring: Many of the youth in our target area have nothing to do after school but get into trouble before their parents get home from work. We know that one of the best ways we can serve them in these important hours is to ensure that they thrive by helping them succeed in school. To this end, PEARSON operates a tutoring program for youth throughout the school year, providing each student the individualized attention and homework help he or she needs to excel academically.
Summer Learning Institute: To create this program we met with public school officials and asked them directly, "How can we help our school kids over the summers in the most effective way?" The Learning Institute was designed to enrich the learning experience of students in the areas of Reading, Math, Science & Civics. Because many students in the area require additional assistance during the summer, the Learning Institute has a special June-July program hosted in two locations. The summer Learning Institute helps to ensure students are prepared to begin a new productive school year while retaining and building on educational enrichment.
GED Lab: Without a high school diploma or GED in this country the average person is likely to live under the poverty level most of their lives. Because there are a number of adults and some teens who have dropped out of school before graduating, the GED program is one of our most greatly desired programs ministries. Through a partnership with HANDS UP OUTREACH, we provide six computers with the GED software installed, both at our location and in a second secure location at one of the main apartment complexes whose residents we serve. This reduces the obstacles that underserved individuals face when trying to obtain their GED, and lay the foundation for increased economic self-sufficiency.
PEARSON also offers these programs:
TALKS Leadership Program: When a boy doesn't have his Dad at home, he can become directionless and discouraged in his teenage years and even into manhood. This mentorship program specifically targets young male students to encourage them to learn wisdom from older and mature adults, live out the principles of wisdom that is demonstrated by the mentors, and grow in wisdom as servant-leaders who eventually mentor others themselves.
Faith-based Mentoring with the City of Pearl Youth Court: A large percentage of teenagers in our targeted areas are labeled "troubled" or "delinquent." Through collaboration with the City of Pearl Youth Court (Judge Shirley), the PEARSON Foundation has the opportunity to positively impact the lives of troubled youth once they leave detention through a mentorship program. (The PEARSON Foundation is the ONLY organization in Rankin County currently providing this post-detention service!) This program aims to guide these troubled youth away from a life of crime and delinquency. By doing this we steer them towards a life where they are positive contributors to society, and become leaders in the community.
Weekend Leadership/Character Development Retreats: When we spot demonstrated leadership ability in our youth, we invest in their growth. The PEARSON Foundation operates special quarterly retreats with youth under the belief that character and attitude are some of the keys for any young person to positively and productively function in our culture.
Community Service Projects: We feel that learning how to serve others is an important aspect of a young persons maturity. PEARSON strives to serve the community in any capacity necessary, including utilizing our resources to better the community through various service projects. For example, we found out that kids in our after-school program have nowhere safe to play because the playground in their apartment complex is in ruins. We are discussing a future Community Clean Up/Fix Up project that will address that felt-need and also beautify the complex.
Other PEARSON Services:
Zumba Dance/Fitness: Obesity and unhealthy living are the breeding ground for disease and premature death. Many of the youth and parents of Mississippi are prone to these ills. PEARSON addresses this issue by offering a free weekly Zumba class open to residents of the area with the intent of educating participants on the value of a healthy lifestyle early on in life. Participants learn how to maintain a healthy lifestyle by incorporating regular exercise into their schedules.
Parenting/Fatherhood classes: Because many were un-parented themselves, and became parents too early, they lack the knowledge and support to be the stable, positive influence their child needs. Parents and future parents are taught basic child care, understanding child development and discipline. Our hope is to incorporate how to prevent and handle emergencies common with infants and children, such as choking, into the parenting and babysitting classes quarterly, and possibly offer participants certification in those skills.
Community Marriage Class: A strong marriage is key to a successful home. Monthly classes are targeted to those in healthy marriages, and those in hurting marriages in our community.
Jarvis C. Ward