As a child, I longed for things that many take for granted: a stable home, enough food to eat, warmth in the snowy winter, even healthy parents...
Despite my lack of material possessions, I had more dreams and hope than most others might imagine.
People along the way recognized my resilience and were inspired enough to give me something that many from my community didn’t have… Access!
Access to knowledge, experiences, relationships, environments and opportunities beyond what my personal circumstances could afford.
That access changed the trajectory of my life, and is the genesis for everything we do in Zion.
Shawn Pearson, Founder, The Zion Institute
Growing up in poverty with a mother who suffered from an untreated mental illness, Shawn was blessed with above average intelligence. This afforded her opportunities to travel outside of her neighborhood to explore performing arts, a math/science magnet program and life outside of poverty.
In 2001, God brought her to Phoenix Arizona with an assignment to teach and share with others her personal poverty transformation experience. She founded Zion to be “the well,” the place where residents are met at their point of need to begin a healing journey to break the cycles of poverty.
To her role in Zion, Shawn brings 24 years of nonprofit operational experience, extensive proposal and grant writing knowledge, and is a published author.
HOW WE STARTED, AND HOW WE'VE GROWN...
In 2010, Zion Institute was born. Originally established as Kingdom Communities of the Valley, it was designed as a social enterprise to build capacity in businesses in the South Phoenix area.
Today, Zion Institute works to build capacity in both non-profit and for-profit social entities. With access to our partners, training and resources they are empowered to serve the community in a more meaningful way. Since 2014, dozens of new businesses, service providers, and ministries have come to life in order to serve the South Phoenix communities.
Zion Institute is “the well” from which community development and relationships flow. We provide support and resources for the development of individuals, working to break the cycles of generational poverty and foster an improved quality of life.
Driven by faith, perseverance and God’s grace, a renewed community and its marketplace will spring up and flourish.
As co-founder, Shawn Pearson brings nearly 30 years of non-profit leadership and organizational development, combined with grant writing, strategic planning and community mobilization. Shawn is a breakthrough social entrepreneur for the common good. Being a bridge builder across multiple sectors, she believes diversity unites the relational and social capital of communities, enabling everyone to share in the collective impact for transformation.
Navarro Whitaker brings more than 13 years of leadership in marketing and entrepreneurial experience to Zion. He is the founder of Matthew 25 of America, a Christ- centered coaching program for men. He is also owner of Whinc Marketing, an education marketing and development organization that specializes in creating, marketing and recruiting virtual educational programs. Navarro is also co-owner of Nutrient, an Arizona based premium meal delivery service.
As a Family Nurse Practitioner Amber has served the community in the health care setting for 31 years. She currently holds a clinical position, as well as a full-time faculty position with United States University. Over a year ago her and her husband were called to South Phoenix where we live, work, and serve. "I am honored to serve with Zion Institute as the hands and feet of Jesus meeting the community."
Catherine is retired from the state legislature. Having served four years in the House of Representatives and four years in the Senate, she found serving her community was truly an honor. She is proud to now serve on the Zion board as it allows her to continue serving the community she loves.
As a millennial and youth advocate, Allen Hunter brings over a decade of service to the South Phoenix community through various churches and para church organizations. The Alabama native has an affinity for Zion’s demographic, in part, because of his lived experiences. Those early childhood experiences uniquely shaped his passion and purpose to serve and give back.
A Human Resource Professional for over 10 years in the South Phoenix area, Lisa serves her passion for youth education through mentorship. After serving with Zion, she fell in love with our organization and decided to join the board. She's filled up when she gets to meet people at "the well" and let them know they are loved by Jesus.
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