PEARLS, a student club at Jemison High School, is short for Performing Education and Academics with Realistic Life Skills. It was first developed in 2009 by two teachers at Ed White Middle School when it was discovered that too many highly intelligent girls in the school were not qualifying for college selection or certain scholarships due to their lack of community service. PEARLS sponsors and advisors Portia Houston, Vikkie Hollingsworth Moore, and Chaundra Jones have certainly filled this need since then and so much more!
Since the start, it has provided mentorship, taught the girls responsibility, instilled positive life skills, and afforded a pathway to community service opportunities. One of the mottos I heard stated was that they are “greatness ambassadors” and it sounded as though they spread light and love wherever they go. As PEARLS, students are expected to exemplify encouragement and support toward one another.
One of the benefits of being a part of PEARLS as stated by Mrs. Chaundra Jones, “PEARLS provides a circle of support and of mentors.” The program also creates an environment that allows participants to engage in enriching and interactive activities. “Girls are more likely to graduate high school and become college and career-ready. They learn to stand on their own, make wise decisions, and strive for nothing less than greatness.”
How to Participate in PEARLS
The PEARLS membership is open to all girls in Huntsville City Schools and currently has 30 active members. They also have a collaborative relationship with Girls Inc. and created a Big Sister program with McNair Middle School geared toward easing the transition from middle school to high school.
The girls come from all walks of life and interests including but not limited to student government, sports – cheerleading, volleyball etc. – academic teams, and are taught the fundamental ideals of being a “Circle of Sisters.” Graduates have been known and are also requested to return to speak, educate or continue mentoring current students, as they were supported, they are taught to “pay it forward’ to the next generation of PEARLS.
PEARLS have at least one grand Community Project, attend class tours to college with Cap and Gown, run Rose of Sharon canned food drives, volunteer at Manna House, help hostess for Christmas Villages, work public events at the school and assist as greeters at orientations.
All girls are required to apply, pay a $5 fee for incentives and events, and accept that progress reports and report cards will be reviewed. One of the goals of PEARLS is to inspire all girls to graduate – which takes accountability, self-accountability and building communication skills between parents, teachers counselors and asking for help as needed.
The PEARLS girls do follow by-laws, vote in officers and are taught how to run their meetings to prepare them for a real-life boardroom setting. PEARLS have monthly meetings, with mandatory participation, produce a monthly newsletter, have regular fundraisers to help support their activities, trips and workshops and throw an end-of-year Senior Brunch as well as ceremony.
How You Can Support PEARLS
This month’s Fundraiser that everyone can participate in is the “Nothing But Bundt” starting February 27th with delivery due on March 10th. Each bundlet will be $5 and come in a variety of flavors including red velvet, chocolate chocolate chip, lemon, marble, pecan praline, carrot, white white chocolate, cinnamon swirl and white chocolate raspberry.
Other ways community members can support the PEARLS program is by donating items the their “College Care Packages” – a fundraiser for graduating seniors that provides a kit that includes anything from toothpaste to sheets!
Another project the PEARLS are currently considering is the “Job Shadowing” mentorship program, whereas girls would follow a small business owner, nurse, doctor, government official etc. for a set period to see what working in that field would be like. If your company or facility would be interested in this, please contact any of the PEARLS advisors!
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Isha Greene is a stay-at-home mother of three, Army Spouse extraordinaire, "transplant," originally from NY to NJ, to NC, to Germany, to hopefully digging deep roots in Huntsville, AL. With all children in school and husband constantly TDY (Temporary Duty Assigned) aka traveling, Isha enjoys taking time to explore the new surroundings, decorating/organizing the house, baking and cooking (from scratch!) and socializing. She practices meditation, self-help, do-it-yourself projects, is a wanna-be-gardener/green thumb, philanthropist with the occasional need of having a political or socioeconomic conversation.