By Leland Johnson
The months of April and May mark the ending of the school year and high school careers for many students in New Orleans. The PLEASE Foundation (People Leading Educational and Spiritual Excellence), an organization located in Metairie, held a series of fundraising events to show their support for students who are making strides for their future, academically. The foundation provides mentoring and scholarships for low-income children from grades Kindergarten to 12th grade.
The foundation’s events began in April with the program’s Annual Bake and Bowl located at Rock ’n’ Bowl on April 14th, followed by the Fourth Student Reunion Dinner at Irene’s on April 20th. The organization will conclude with a picnic for the foundation’s members on April 28th, and a Senior Student Dinner on May 7th.
The goal of the events is to raise money for scholarships and educational programs in New Orleans, with the hopes of establishing an alumni base for the foundation through the Student Reunion Dinner. The student members of the foundation shared their appreciation for the cause during the student dinner such as:
“I love everything the PLEASE Foundation does,” said Tyler Leblanc, a Dillard University student who benefited from the organization’s work. “It feels great to be a part of something that helps my community.”
The Student Reunion Dinner marks the college graduation in May of the first students inducted into the foundation. This cohort included Mark Woods of the University of Louisiana Lafayette, Alexis Irvin of Dillard University, and Leblanc from Dillard. Each of the foundation’s students, including current seniors, graduated from Catholic schools in New Orleans like St. Augustine High School, and St. Katharine Drexel High School among others.
The organization, founded by New Orleans native Yvette Endom in 2007, helps children from low-income families gain admission into Catholic High Schools in New Orleans and into colleges across the country. It provides the students with scholarships, mentoring, tutoring, among other resources. The program has a beneficial effect on the New Orleans Community, Endom said. It does this by addressing the failing Public School System, violence, crime, and extreme poverty in New Orleans through moral and scholastic education of the youth.
“The organization has existed for 11 years and has grown and evolved with our students,” Endom said. “We are now helping our students get into college and find scholarships. Once a student becomes part of the PLEASE Foundation, they are with the organization until they graduate high school and beyond,” she said.
The parents of PLEASE are also crucial to the organization and their willingness to be part of it has helped it to grow.
“Most of our parents have not been to college and/or work more than one job. Therefore, family income is low making it impossible for them to afford a Catholic School Education and the resources needed to succeed once accepted,” Endom said. The foundation is not only an opportunity for a better future for students, but also for parents.
“My family views the PLEASE Foundation as a blessing from God,” said PLEASE Foundation parent Frederica Perriott. “After Hurricane Katrina, our financial circumstances changed dramatically, dropping from a two-income family to a one income family. Without this foundation, we would not be able to afford to give our three children that type of Christian education we value so much.”
The PLEASE Foundation has given 318 scholarships and has awarded over $1,156,000.00 in scholarship money in the City of New Orleans. These scholarships are important to the community, said Chervonda Fortenberry, a PLEASE Foundation parent.
“The Please Foundation has helped a lot of families cover portions, if not all tuition, for selected children throughout the City,” Fortenberry said. “Overall, The Please Foundation and the parents of these children want an excellent education and faith-based experience to develop and nurture our youth to become productive adults in our society,” she said.
The foundation has set goals to provide more opportunities and greater resources to each of its students now and in the future. These goals include providing students with college scholarships, taking students on college tours and educational trips to Washington D.C. The organization also employs the foundation’s college graduates in order to serve the New Orleans Community.
Many parents shared their appreciation for the foundation and its efforts at the Annual Bake and Bowl such as PLEASE Foundation parent Tanisha Johnson-White.
“I want to be a part of everything that this foundation does and to be perfectly honest it’s still not enough,” Johnson-White said. “I know that Yvette has stayed up at night and has experienced very long days for our children, her adopted children, and that is priceless,” she said.