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Oklahoma City woman devotes herself to helping Edgemere Elementary


Kelly Pearson
Kelly Pearson PROVIDED

Life taught Kelly Pearson the importance of education.

Sure Pearson had some amazing teachers who stressed what a good education could provide.

But outside, life wasn’t so smooth. She was raised in a single-parent family by a mother who worked hard. However, her mother didn’t have a college degree and didn’t think Pearson needed one.

“I didn’t have anyone telling me otherwise, so I made mistakes,” Pearson said.

She got married, had a baby and got divorced. Now she was the single parent trying to support herself and her daughter on a bank teller’s salary.

Why is this important today? Because Pearson, 53, wants to be the voice from the outside telling students that it is important to go to college. After remarrying, Pearson did just that.

“I worked hard and I was that old person who sat in the front row and asked too many questions,” she said.

“I started at OSU-OKC (Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City) and then transferred to UCO (University of Central Oklahoma). I graduated at the top of my class with a B.S. in education the same year that my daughter graduated from high school.”

Pearson went on to teach fifth grade at Putnam City Central Intermediate School.

“I loved teaching and still hear from many of my former students,” she said. “They taught me more than I did them most of the time.”

She taught until her third child was born. But the involvement with education didn’t fade away.

Pearson joined the board of PAMBE Ghana, a nonprofit organization, and helped to raise funds and open a school in rural northern Ghana. In 2008, PAMBE Ghana launched the La’Angum Learning Center as a model for culturally rich, bilingual early childhood education, according to the organization’s website.

Pearson could have walked away having accomplished her goals and having helped students do the same.

Instead she picked up the pace.

Wanted to volunteer

When Pearson and husband, Paul, moved to Edgemere Park in 2001, they were told Edgemere was not a very good school. She visited the school a few times trying to volunteer but never got a call back. Finally, in 2008, Pearson’s son-in-law was hired to teach at Edgemere.

She saw that as an opportunity to go tell the new principal, Dennis Gentry, that she wanted to volunteer.

“He and I worked together to determine what needs there were,” Pearson said. “I enlisted Ed Cook and Judge Ralph Thompson to be our honorary chairmen and with support from our five neighborhoods, Friends of Edgemere was born. I am just one of many volunteers in the community who have made a difference for this school.”

There is also a very active group of alumni of Edgemere School who have generously contributed to the effort, she said.

“With their help, our community has raised over $200,000 in the past five years to purchase furniture, playground equipment, landscaping and irrigation, window treatments, and much more,” Pearson said. “This amazing support led me to propose that Edgemere become a community school. My hope for Edgemere was that the school board would agree to a pilot program and we are able to provide needed services and opportunities to our students and their families. This initiative provides the needed framework to bring the community into the school and the school into the community.”

On Feb. 20, the Oklahoma City School Board approved a community school pilot program for Edgemere Elementary, 3200 N Walker Ave.

This will offer students, teachers and parents additional services and support, including health care, early childhood learning and before- and after-school art and science programs. The program is scheduled to begin in the 2014-15 school year.

“Long term, I want every child in OKCPS to have a top-rate education,” she said. “I think the district is heading in a good direction.”

Children are important to Pearson whether they are her own or those in her community. Pearson is the mother of four and the grandmother of two. But she cares deeply for hundreds.

Susan Gee, principal at Edgemere, said the help from Friends of Edgemere and the community overall has been such a boost to the school. Not only is the encouragement evident, but these individuals have worked hard to make sure students have a “wonderful, beautiful place” to go for their education, Gee said.

“Lots of the neighbors just bring us donated things that they have, like paper,” Gee said, “or they offer their time to our children.

“It’s really wonderful.”

Pearson’s seen the effects of the care exhibited by the community.

She can tell you about it, not just overall, but right down to a specific child.

“There was a very sweet girl a few years ago that was very quiet,” Pearson said. “Her class was to perform on Dr. Seuss' birthday. I couldn’t imagine which character she would choose. Eventually, the day came and as she took the stage, I noticed she had chosen Horton, the elephant.

“This quiet girl came to life on that stage. She was so talented.”

So, Pearson called Lyric Academy and got the paperwork started that week for the child to apply for a summer academy scholarship. “The following fall, she was on stage at the Civic Center in a Lyric production,” Pearson said.

“I never knew if she continued with theater but I hope so. She was very talented. There are so many children that have these hidden talents, it’s incumbent upon us to provide opportunities for them to discover their gifts.”

Contributing: Staff Writer Tim Willert

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