Supporting Five Siblings at Thomasville Heights Elementary

Pearson Family

Zakkiya Pearson lives with her five children in the Forest Cove housing community directly across the street from Thomasville Heights Elementary School. For years, her apartment suffered from neglected repair needs, including a mold infestation, holes in the walls and broken appliances. These issues caused her utility bills to be higher than necessary and made it difficult to keep up with the high payments.

“With the holes in the wall and exposed mold, we kept the windows open all the time because we couldn’t breathe,” says Ms. Pearson. “It was hot in the summer without working AC, and in the winter we didn’t have heat, so we froze. We had to bring in space heaters to get through the night.” Her children, who are 4, 5, 7, 8 and 11 years old, are students at Thomasville Heights Elementary School. They were chronically sick due to the poor air quality and living conditions in their apartment, causing them to miss crucial days at school. No matter how hard Ms. Pearson tried, the apartment complex wouldn’t respond to her repeated requests to have things fixed.

The Community Engagement Program at Purpose Built Schools offers strategic programs and partnerships to help address the needs of our families. Through these programs, Purpose Built Schools makes sure our students and families get the support they need to attend school and thrive. Purpose Built Schools connected Ms. Pearson to their partner, the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation (AVLF). Ayanna Jones-Lightsy, Co-Director of Safe and Stable Homes at AVLF, began working with the law firm Arnall Golden Gregory, who accepted Ms. Pearson’s case pro bono, and the housing complex to get the family their much-needed repairs.

AVLF held Forest Cove responsible for repairing Ms. Pearson’s unit, as well as providing housing for her and her five children while the repairs were made. Ms. Jones-Lightsy and her team found the family a place to stay in an extended stay hotel, where they are now safely relocated. Purpose Built Schools worked with community partners to provide school uniforms, book bags and school supplies for the children to go back to school, and stocked their temporary apartment with food and cleaning supplies to help the family get back on their feet. Since staying in the hotel, her children haven’t been sick a single day.

“I feel so much better about my children living here,” says Ms. Pearson. “We don’t have to worry about the kids getting sick and missing school or the gun violence in the complex.”

The hotel is located in a different neighborhood outside the school’s attendance zone. At first, there was no transportation to bring her five children to Thomasville Heights Elementary School. While the Community Engagement Program worked on rearranging a bus route to bring Ms. Pearson’s students to and from school, AVLF provided Lyft certificates to temporarily transport the children. Mr. Flag, who works in maintenance and logistics for Purpose Built Schools, worked with the bus company to make sure the Pearson’s temporary home is now on the route to and from school.

“AVLF and Purpose Built Schools helped me a lot,” says Ms. Pearson. “I really do appreciate how strangers went out of their way to help a single mother like me. Their hearts are genuine and pure. I don’t know where I’d be without their help. They brought me a long way.”

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