On a hot and muggy Monday night in June, a crowd gathered at The Brew Gentlemen Beer Company in Braddock to celebrate the awesomeness of Pittsburgh and to witness live project pitches in action. Projects were pitched to an esteemed guest panel comprised of Braddock residents Kevin Sousa, Gisele Fetterman, Phyllis Brown and Patrick Jordan. June’s winner, The Pearl Club University, was immediately selected following four outstanding presentations.
The goals of The Pearl Club are to enable and empower African-American young women toward self-sufficiency, to overcome poverty, and to foster contributing members of society via college preparation and life skills development. A real college experience is offered in collaboration with Carlow University, where high school students prepare to build their capacity to succeed, contribute to further increasing the viability of Pittsburgh, and expand the network of professional women as future mentors and contributors to the community.
Since 2013, The Pearl Club has empowered over 150 young women. With an 86% retention rate, the program has provided each participant with 80+ hours of college readiness programming and 50+ hours of gender-based mentoring. The programming teaches the definition of “college-ready” and provides oral presentation experience. Participants also learn to manage their time and develop networking skills. Founding director Tamasia Johnson explains the importance of this program:
“How can we expect students to succeed in an environment they are not prepared for? With 77% of our young women being first generation college-goers, our programming aids in solving the problem of minority young women lacking skills and preparation to overcome the challenges on a college campus. Their aim is to graduate from a post-secondary institution, making Pittsburgh a more awesome place to build a future.”
At its core, the Pearl Club is a sisterhood based on college success. In one cohort, ten young women are given the opportunity to experience college life firsthand during a 6-day stay at Carlow University. During that week, they visualize themselves as college students. Upon hearing that her organization won, Tamasia exclaimed, “My heart was pounding and I was at a loss for words. The one thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to share the moment with my student, Aricka. We were both super excited and emotional!”
As trustee Melanie Harrington points out, “It is simply inspiring to see young people who are doing it for themselves. The Pearl Club includes young African American women who aspire to do great things and are mentoring younger African American women who are seeking guidance to successfully transition from high school to college. Now how important and awesome is that?”
The Pearl Club has a volunteer board consisting of 5 professional women from diverse disciplines. This year’s cohort experience began on June 21 and concluded on June 26 with a graduation ceremony. Learn how you can support the awesome work of The Pearl Club.
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