The PLEASE Pursuit Of Endom’s Calling
Yvette Endom has a mission.
She wants to attend every high school and college graduation of all the kids she’s helped through The PLEASE Foundation.
In 8 years Endom’s 501c3 has raised $600,000 that has gone towards 270 scholarships for 145 inner city kids that she placed in area Catholic schools.
“The greatest thing has been the parents’ trust in me to do the best for their kids,” Endom said. “They know I’ll match their children to a Catholic school they’ll succeed in, and that will prepare them for college. With the money we raise we are shepherding all our scholarship recipients through all their high school years.”
On Friday, April 17, 2015, The Please Foundation is holding a Bake-N-Bowl Fundraiser at Rock-N-Bowl, 3016 S. Carrollton Ave., from 7:00 – 9:30 p.m. Endom’s goal is to raise $80,000. That would be enough money to award 8 scholarships, she said, and change 8 young lives forever.
“When we see these kids get accepted to college and become successful there, we all feel it’s been a dream come true,” Endom said.
After Hurricane Katrina, Endom, a native New Orleanian, founded PLEASE (People Leading Educational and Spiritual Excellence). She felt it was her calling to help her city in a way she could make the most impact – championing its youngest at-risk students in elementary school. She believed providing them with a college-preparatory Catholic education was the best way to pull them out of poverty and guide them to become the future leaders of New Orleans.
Endom earned a Master’s in clinical psychology, with a focus on children and standardized testing, and gained experience as a school psychologist in the Jefferson Parish public school system.
“Before PLEASE, I was a constant volunteer,” she said, “but I didn’t like to follow other people’s rules. I wanted to do my own thing without any restrictions.”
Endom chose to work with Cathedral Academy elementary school in the French Quarter. She said she was there every day from 2007 until the school closed in 2012.
At CA, many of the students had family members who had been murdered, were in jail or were working multiple jobs to pay for their quality education. The inner city children who enrolled in Cathedral Academy were exposed to violence and poverty daily and needed help, guidance and a safe place to learn.
Endom started off by tutoring and creating clubs for the kids, but when she realized the potential they had for learning and achieving Endom said she knew she could do more. She felt many of the students she was helping had the chance to be the first in their families to finish high school and go to college.
As president of PLEASE, Endom raises money for scholarships for inner city students to attend Catholic elementary and high schools in New Orleans. PLEASE also provides mentoring programs for students and their parents.
“This was not my original intention,” Endom said. “My plan was to help little kids do better in school. My eventual plan to focus on continuing their education at Catholic high schools came later. With the relationships I developed over the years with area schools, and promoting the potential of these kids, I found a way to change the lives of these students to ensure their shot at a college preparatory education.”
When CA closed, Endom was able to place 56 of the students into the St. Stephen School at 1027 Napoleon Ave. “They were wonderful,” she said. “St. Stephen’s welcomed them with open arms.”
Endom said her Foundation favors Catholic schools because she believes they provide a safe and nurturing environment and instill the same morals and values parents are trying to enforce at home. Endom said Catholic schools also strive to get their graduates into college.
So far, PLEASE has been able to place scholarship recipients into Catholic elementary schools including the St. Stephen School, St. Anthony and St. Mary Magdalene, and high schools including Brother Martin, Cabrini, De La Salle, Dominican, Jesuit, St. Augustine, St. Katharine Drexel and St. Mary’s Academy.
To apply for a PLEASE Foundation scholarship you don’t have to be Catholic, and you don’t have to be a straight A student.
“When we go through the applications and interview process with the applicants’ families we don’t necessarily look for the kids with the highest GPAs,” Endom, a Dominican alumna, said. “We look for kids with vision who communicate to us they have a plan to do something with their lives. We look for kids who stand out and those who have strong relationships with their parents and families who also demonstrate they are working towards a better education and future for their children.”
PLEASE Foundation requirements include a 2.5 GPA, acceptable conduct and attendance, campus, athletics, church and/ or community involvement, a plan to attend college after high school graduation, a student essay, a parent’s application, submission of financial records, principal and teacher recommendations and a student and parent interview.
Endom said PLEASE Foundation scholarships range from $1,000 to $8,000 a year and, currently, there are 45 applicants applying for 8 available scholarships.
There is also a yearly Joseph McCloskey Schmidt Scholarship, in memory of elementary school student Joseph McCloskey Schmidt, available through PLEASE where recipients must meet all the PLEASE Foundation requirements but will be chosen by the PLEASE Board and the Schmidt family.
“Once we choose our kids we help them apply to Catholic high schools all over the city, and when they get in, we continue to help them succeed by keeping their grades up, teaching them study skills and working very closely with the families,” Endom said.
Endom said the majority of PLEASE recipients are African-American, and she’s been able to develop strong ties with their parents who are mostly single mothers. With the help of PLEASE, she said several of the recipients’ parents have been able to stop working 2 jobs since PLEASE scholarships help pay tuition.
She said 100% of all PLEASE students have been accepted into Catholic high schools in the last 8 years, and 100% of her 2014 high school graduates are attending college.
PLEASE is run by a Board of Directors including Endom, Shannon D. Adams, Judy Arceneaux, Maria Crumley, Lauren Lagarde, Stacy Pellerin, Evans Schmidt and Kristy Vanderbrook. They have an advisor, Beth Cooney, and only 1 employee who works 6 hours a week, Monique Colon Toso, who helps with publications relations and development.
“Our Board members are very committed and most have been with us since the start,” Endom said. “A lot spend their own money to help PLEASE, and every dime goes towards the kids.”
“It’s more than a full time job,” Endom, who does not draw a salary, said. “But I have the passion for it, and I enjoy all the success we’ve experienced working with these wonderful kids and their parents.”
Endom is hoping their Friday, April 17, Bake-N-Bowl Fundraiser at Rock-N-Bowl will be another PLEASE Foundation success. In addition to bowling, food, drinks, silent and live auctions, there will be a baking competition for the kids.
Endom said St. Stephen students, from 4th through 7th grades, participated in an art contest to decorate pictures of cupcakes. Out of the group, 35 winners were selected and they will compete in an actual cupcake baking and decorating contest on Tuesday, April 14, at St. Stephen. To help with the baking and decoration instruction, PLEASE will host local Chefs Lisa White from Domenica and Nicholas Scalco, II from Irene’s Cuisine.
The Top 10 cupcakes, and their junior bakers, will be judged at the Bake-N-Bowl Fundraiser. The kids, who will wear chef’s hats and aprons on stage, will present their edible creations and the Top 3 winners will receive prizes including kitchenware and Beats headphones.
Tickets to the Bake-N-Bowl fundraiser are available in advance for $50 for adults and $30 for kids, and at the door for $55 and $35. Children under the age of 5 will receive free admission.
PLEASE is still accepting donation items for both their silent and live auctions.
While Endom sees a bright future ahead for PLEASE, she admits she doesn’t want the organization to get too big. “We want to be able to sustain our relationships and friendships with all the kids and parents,” she said. “We strive to help families who share the goal of attaining a better education for their children, and we feel it’s our biggest reward to know we are not just helping the kids, but their families as well.”