Sameka Gates was born in the Woodlawn neighborhood on the Southside of Chicago. Education was never an option in her home; it was expected. Sameka was taught that education and exposure brought opportunity and knowledge. Being bussed to an elementary school in Bridgeport, a local community in Chicago, Sameka saw early on the differences in the education system. The resources and programs at the poverty stricken elementary school only two blocks from her home paled in comparison to the primarily white magnet school Sameka attended. To help Sameka have balance, her mother and grandmother enrolled her in arts and dance programs on the south side. The opportunities and exposure that Sameka experienced during her adolescent years has helped shape her to be the woman that she is now. With those wonderful experiences and access, Sameka also experienced great loneliness, insecurities and identity issues and vowed that when she had the opportunity, she would do all that she could to ensure that young girls always felt protected and proud of who they are, even if they are a little “different”. Many years had passed and Sameka thought often of her childhood dream of opening a youth center especially after becoming a mother, changing careers and becoming a middle school teacher, but never acted on it. After suffering a concussion in 2019 and with a few months of down time, Sameka decided it was time to finally put her plan into action. With assistance from a dedicated board and volunteers, The p.e.a.r.l.s. Program was born.


To create a safe environment for girls to authentically express themselves while providing the tools to be positive, responsible and respectful members of the community.