Gladys Pearson, founder of Making It To The Finish Line, had a vision eight years ago. Today that vision has provided young women an opportunity to be the authors of their own futures.
“The goal was to help other women of all ages,” Pearson said, “because I knew there were other women who could relate to the story of how Making It To The Finish Line was started.”
The organization is now seeking participants for the “Young and Elegant Cotillion for Girls,” which starts Oct. 18.
Pearson, who at the age of 13 had a daughter and gave her up for adoption, knows personally the travails a young girl faces, especially when there is no one to turn to.
“We try to reach young women who really don’t have a support group,” Pearson said. “Most organizations look for your 3.0 or 4.0 student. We look for the young lady who does not have the opportunity, regardless of what obstacles are in their lives, make it to the finish line. You have to be able to listen to what they say, try to get them to change the way they look at different things. Once they know they’re special, things will start falling in line for them.”
The targeted ages are 12-17, with a summer program geared towards girls ages 6-17. Pearson added that what separates her non-profit from others is that all of their programs and services are free. Her money and that of board members and sponsors funds the organization.
“We’ve been running our program out of pocket for eight years,” Pearson said. “We want the community to know that Making It To The Finish Line is there for them. We had a young lady call because she didn’t have any food. We got her a gift card. This mother e-mailed her daughter’s essay. I didn’t know she was from California, we had no idea. We shipped her prom dress to her. We don’t turn any young lady away.”
Making It To The Finish Line annually puts out a call for 200-word essays on the subject of “My Career Goal In Making It To The Finish Line.” The essayist, after review, is given a prom dress, free of charge.
“The prom dresses are donated by area boutiques, brand new,” Pearson said. “We’re given between 100-200 dresses. All they have to do is write a 200-word essay.” Pearson added that Making It To The Finish Line is primarily looking for lower income girls because they are the ones traditionally left out.
“Our organization’s opinion is these young ladies are our futures,” she said. “We stand behind our name. We don’t care where the girls come from. We believe each lady should have an equal opportunity, whether they’re lower class or upper class, and we try to be diversified.Quite naturally we get African- Americans, but we don’t turn anyone away. Our goal is to reach as many young ladies as we possibly can, letting them know that whatever life challenges they have they can make it to the finish line.”
Some of the programs are: the Book Bag Drive, held in the month of August for students returning to school; “Tools for School,” where over 400 Detroit Public Schools students have received backpacks; the popular “Special Moments Clothes Closet” program, which provides high school seniors an opportunity to receive a new prom dress; and more.
“All of this is done out of our pocket and I think that makes a difference also for us being in existence for eight years,” Pearson said.
They even help out the boys too. The requirement is the same — write an essay on making it to the finish line.
“What we want them to come away with is, we are there for them,” Pearson said. “Any young ladies who are having a problem facing life’s challenges, call Making It To The Finish Line. We may not be able to help everybody, but we may be able to help one. We want all parents to know that no matter what that child is facing, they can make it to the finish line.”