Pivotal Transition is helping build futures for children by helping them feel good about themselves today.

For the past several years, Pivotal Transition, whose motto is “look beyond tomorrow,” has hosted back-to-school events aimed at helping to provide kids with a different look to bring to the first day of school. Literally.

“We wanted to do something a little different from other back-to-school programs because everyone does the basics like backpacks or supplies,” Pivotal Transition founder Jamaal Eubanks tells Madison365. “I had been working in the MMSD for a while and I had a couple of kids who had shoes that weren’t good. One kid, in particular, had some really falling-apart shoes. I went out and bought that kid a brand-new pair of shoes and gave him a couple of extra pairs, as well. I didn’t tell him what I was doing. When I bought the new pair the kid broke down crying and gave me a hug and told me he appreciated me for it.”

Jamaal Eubanks spends every dollar on supplies for kids.
Jamaal Eubanks spends every dollar on supplies for kids.

Eubanks said that moment helped shed light for him on how much a gift like that could raise the self-esteem of a child, even unbeknownst to them. He harkened back to his own first days of school as a young person and remembered how much different the kids who had stuff felt about themselves as opposed to the kids who didn’t.

Now, Eubanks uses the shoe donations as a platform against bullying and other school-related problems that kids have. Eliminating taunts that many kids hear about the way they look is a big part of that and Eubanks says has a direct effect on a child’s academic performance.

“Even as adults we can have something happen in the morning that throws off our day at work, so can we imagine what it’s like for those kids who don’t even have the social skills we have as adults?” Eubanks asks. “Hey, it doesn’t matter what kind of backpack or supplies you have. You’re not gonna be happy if you don’t feel good about yourself. And it can be as simple as having a good pair of shoes and not worrying about who’s going to make fun of you.”

Eubanks said that having decent clothes, shoes, supplies, and maybe even a computer at home is huge in how kids feel about themselves and enhances their performances and what they can achieve academically.

“Our motto is ‘look beyond tomorrow,’” he said. “In addition to our back-to-school event, we have our mentoring program. We have a core group of kids. We teach self-advocacy skills, how to battle adversity, different strategies for how to overcome certain obstacles. We try to use real-life situations. They have to understand that there are things they are doing now that they may not want to do, but that might be important later in life. If they look into the future they can start to shape their present circumstances to build that future.”

The Pivotal Transition back-to-school event has been a huge success the past few years. In 2016, they had over 500 people show up to the event. Eubanks said the line went around the block with parents and kids coming to participate.

Jamaal Eubanks
Jamaal Eubanks

This year’s back-to-school event will be held Sunday, August 27, 3-6 p.m. at Angel Joy Learning Center, off W. Beltline Frontage Rd. There will be food, a DJ, outdoor games, free haircuts and, of course, a massive shoe giveaway hosted by Pivotal Transition with a little help from the Nike store in Johnson Creek.

Eubanks said he hopes to see a big turnout – especially from communities like Allied Drive that are in close proximity to Angel Joy Learning Center.

“I think when you’re in communities like that they need the extra support. It sheds light on those communities in a positive way instead of everything being portrayed in a negative light all the time,” he says. “It gives a sense of pride. You take better care of stuff when you’re proud. It’s for the entire city to come to, but we just host it in an area that is in need.”

Plus, Eubanks adds, there’s always the food and free haircut they provide, so why not at least show up for that?

Pivotal Transition is also hosting a fundraiser August 5 from 1-5 p.m. at Nomad World Pub. It is called the Polo Shirt and Sundresses Day Party and tickets will be $10 in advance and $15 at the door on the day of the party. All of the money raised will go towards the back-to-school event later in August and also help provide a scholarship for students who are going to college out of state.

Pivotal Transition is always looking for volunteers and mentors. Anyone interested can contact Jamaal Eubanks at 608-492-0175