Thursday, January 17, 2019
Finding Pearls In The Community
By Jennifer Bihm & Brian W. Carter, Sentinel Staff Writers
Published March 27, 2014

Rosa Johnson (center) with Pearls Academy mentors

A non-profit continues to help create strong and edified young women in the community.

Pearls Academy Inc. (PAI) AKA Preparing Early and Refining Little Sisters, is a 501© 3 institution that provides mentorship, educational skills and self-esteem training to young women in the community. Rosa Johnson is CEO and founder of the non- profit and felt the need to create a positive environment where young minority women can thrive.

“I feel our community needs reformation,” said Johnson about PAI. “[PAI] is exactly what the community needs as far as our young women becoming educated, [aware] and being able to contribute to the community.

“[We] are preparing the girls for the opportunity to be in the right place so that their dreams can come true.”

Johnson is a Los Angeles native, who attended 95th Elementary School and Dorsey High School. Later, she attended Santa Monica College and transferred to Cal State L.A., where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. She graduated from USC with her Master’s in Social Work. Her dream, turned into an idea and then into reality as she was finishing a master’s program at USC.

“As a young girl, looking back, I felt like if I had certain information, I would’ve made better choices. I see others that I grew up with, doing the same thing.”

Dr. Anita ( one of the key speakers of intuition and Rosa Johnson

Now that she’s completed her education, she wants to use her skills to help the young women in the neighborhood.

“I began using all of my assignments to design the program,” Johnson recalled. “Over the two year span that I was there, everything came together and after I graduated, I just made a few phone calls to some friends who are also community members. They volunteered their time and decided to come along and help.”

PAI became California certified in July of 2012. They held their first meeting in September that same year.

“Our first year, we took on about 26 girls, which was a lot. I thought I was going to start off with six girls but it ended up turning into its own thing,” said Johnson. “We’d like to keep our group between twelve and fifteen members because it is an intimate setting.

Johnson with her 4th/5th grade teacher Mrs. Jones (teacher of 25 years) and her daughter, Asia, who is in Pearls Academy

“[But] anyone who wants to be a part of it, they’ll just contact me and we’ll get to know each other.  I’ll invite you out to one of our workshops and you can participate for the day. If you like what we’re doing and think it’s going to benefit you, you can become a part of our team.”

Johnson has met with the girls, families and community members through an open house to get a consensus of what the needs are in the community and to come together to have a discussion to see what it was that she wanted to do with the youth.  So, out of that came the structure of PAI.

Through PAI, Johnson has created a place where young women can lean on each other for strength, courage and wisdom. PAI is place where young women can go to get information, encouragement and feedback. She does this two Saturdays a month from 10:00 am to 3:00 at El Camino College. This is where she holds workshops for girls ages 7 to 24, on everything from banking to hygiene.

“We’re at El Camino College all year long,” said Johnson. “So we’re able to reach out to different community members.

“We still don’t have a building but that’s okay because our goal isn’t to spend thousands of dollars each month in overhead but to be invested in the children.”

PAI offers mentoring, college prep and etiquette training among other things. They look to give scholarship opportunities when they can. There are a lot of organizations that have scholarships and financial aid for youth in the community and PAI does their best to access them.

“Finances are a big issue and I feel that was part of the reason why I was discouraged from applying to school.

“So… I find these [organizations], put all this information in one place [so] when a young Black girl tells me, ‘I want to go to college,’ I can hand her information.”

Johnson strongly believes in the term “girl power,” which is a powerful motivation for her endeavors with PAI. Some research has found that young women, with a secondary or higher educational background, help bring economic growth to underserved communities. Johnson hopes PAI can help to start a continuing process where young women will help other young women to reach higher.

“We’re very set back in our community and I feel like nobody is coming for us,” said Johnson. “And we have to go and get it for ourselves—that’s what [PAI] is [about].”

Dinner & a movie with the Pearls and Mentors aka Mothers of Pearls

PAI has tutoring, anti-bullying workshops, volunteer opportunities and entrepreneurship among other subjects and focuses. PAI is truly a one-stop community haven for young women, who want to take control of their lives and futures. Johnson has some events coming up in the future in which PAI will be involved.

So far, they’ve taken field trips, done science experiments and participated in financial workshops from banking experts from Union Bank. They recently added the STONES (Standing Together on Nobility, Education and Success) section of their organization for male youth ages 11-21.

“I am helping young men as well,” said Johnson. “I will not turn anyone away.”

“My brother stepped in to help with the young men.”

Johnson is gearing up for a gala in June where PAI will be celebrating its youth, their dreams and goals. “Basically, all year long, our students are putting in work…the gala is a celebration of ‘we worked hard and now let’s celebrate and let’s share with our community.”

From Left-To-Right PAI Mentors: Kassie K., Anneka H., Kyara S., Rosa Johnson & Marie P.

Pearls Academy Inc. is located on the campus of El Camino College. You may contact them at (213) 793-1221 or by fax (323) 231-6531. You may also contact them through e-mail at

Anyone interested in PEARLS or STONES can call Johnson at (213) 793-1221.

For more information visit,

All Photos Courtesy of Pearls Academy

Categories: Local

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