Group mentors young people ‘to the finish line’

By Ian Perrotta

There’s a new nonprofit in town, and it’s ready to help young people succeed in the race of life.

Making It To The Finish Line – an organization with the mission to embrace women (and lately men) of all ages and empower them through training, motivation, support and encouragement to reach their highest potential – recently opened an office in Hamtramck. Located at the old UAW Hall at 2140 Holbrook, the nine-year-old nonprofit is currently looking for young people to mentor.

The nonprofit is the brainchild of founder and CEO Gladys Pearson, who started it in 2001. The genesis of Making It To The Finish Line was a secret Pearson kept for 32 years. At the age of 13 she gave birth to a baby girl, which she was forced to give up for adoption. Pearson hid her secret from friends and family until the daughter tracked her down and she was made to confront her past.

Between the time she gave birth to when her daughter found her, Pearson felt an overwhelming sense of shame, which caused her self-esteem to suffer. However, she persevered through the challenge and eventually went on to marry, have two more kids and obtain a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees. But despite her successes, she still felt anxiety over how her friends, family and colleagues would react to her past.

Knowing that she couldn’t possibly be the only person to experience her type of situation, Pearson realized she could use it as a way to teach others. It was then that she organized Making It To The Finish Line and began working to help others succeed. Since then, she’s helped hundreds of kids through a variety of programs that include seminars on turning hobbies into profit, entrepreneurship, personal and professional development and many more.

Additionally, through their “Tools for School Drive” Making It To The Finish Line also offers young people the supplies they need to succeed in the classroom. And rather than helping out with just academics, the organization also works to ensure extra-curricular activities can be attended by providing free prom dresses to students who complete an essay. These aren’t moth-balled dresses from the 1980s, either – each dress is purchased brand new.

But just looking the part is only half the battle, which is why Making It To The Finish Line began its “Young and Elegant Cotillion” and “Young and Debonair” programs. These four-month boot camps are structured to help ensure young people are responsible enough to face the challenges of today’s society and are open for girls and boys ages 7-18. On Sunday, Nov. 21 at 3 p.m. there will be an informational meeting regarding this program.

“It’s important for young people to learn how to be respectful and respectable,” says Pearson. “If parents put their kids in these types of programs we can change the way they think.”

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