Amid the flurry of attention that befell New Orleans on the 10th anniversary of Katrina, a distinct motif wove its way through the media’s coverage of our city. Without exception, every article I read extolled the unsinkable spirit of the people of New Orleans. To find the personification of that spirit, one needs to look no further than Yvette Endom and the children of the PLEASE Foundation. Like so many of us, Endom was displaced for many months after the storm. A native New Orleanian with a background in school psychology and a passion for helping children, Endom somehow managed to find motivation in post-Katrina life; in a feat that required perseverance, strength and a lot of hard work, she created a foundation that has helped change the lives of hundreds of children.
One Child At a Time
In a nod to the proverb of teaching a man to fish and thereby feeding him for a lifetime, PLEASE (an acronym for People Leading Educational and Spiritual Excellence) provides inner-city children with educational scholarships to some of our city’s finest Catholic schools. The particular brilliance of PLEASE is that it doesn’t end with the scholarship money; it forms a meaningful partnership with each student and his or her parents, so that together they can support that child in achieving personal and educational success. The results are resoundingly positive.
By the Numbers
The mission of PLEASE is to “inspire at-risk children to a future of excellence through education, spiritual and social resources.” Since its founding in 2007, PLEASE has awarded scholarships to 300 children in the amount of $700,000. A full 100 percent of the students in the program have been accepted to local Catholic high schools, and many of those students emerge as classroom leaders. At present there are 41 children in the program, and Endom has a one-on-one relationship with each and every one of them. Provided that a student maintains a 2.5 GPA, he or she stays with PLEASE until high school graduation – a proud day on which Endom sheds tears of joy right along with the graduates’ family members.
As Teddy Roosevelt said …
I recently asked Endom if, in her years with PLEASE, there had been any especially unforgettable moments. Her answer, interestingly, wasn’t about a student. The moment she will never forget is the time a parent looked at her and said: “I can’t believe there’s someone else who believes in my daughter as much as I do.” When Endom told me that story I immediately thought of my favorite Teddy Roosevelt quote: “Believe you can and you are halfway there.” For a young child, especially one born into an environment in which poverty and violence are part of everyday life, being surrounded by supportive adults is critical not only to success but to survival. Children need to know that others have confidence in them; only when they know that can they learn to have confidence in themselves.
Need to Know
For more information about PLEASE, visit PleaseFoundation.org.
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