By Alicia Benjamin and Kaycee McGee
When Pride Magazine featured the story, “Who Will Save Our Children,” in a 2006 issue that told the daunting story of how many Black children in the Charlotte area were severely neglected, Dee Dixon, Pride Magazine’s CEO and Publisher was motivated to do something to help the children.
The next year, Dixon founded the non-profit organization, Pride Entrepreneur Education Program (PEEP), to empower African American youth through education, financial literacy, career development and entrepreneurship.
For more than 10 years, PEEP has connected students in elementary through high schools with mentors and speakers who have provided them with in-school mentoring, entrepreneurship, financial literacy, career interest development and scholarships.
Because many students of color don’t see career or entrepreneurial success for themselves, PEEP partnered with local corporations, nonprofits and small business owners to mentor students to help plan to succeed.
PEEP became instrumental in encouraging children to learn a trade or skill and prepared them to explore small business ownership. For more than a decade, PEEP has awarded over a $96,000 in scholarships to students, Dixon said. These scholarships have helped students pay for tuition and books.
Former PEEP scholarship recipient, Joi Emanuel, is now one of the youngest and newest member of PEEP’s working board of directors. Emanuel is a graduate of Harding University High School and is currently a member of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
“PEEP helped me to go to school and helped to cover the cost of my books during my freshman year at Fayetteville State University,” she said. “Now I’m a board member and with me working with CMPD and being younger, I feel like I can give a younger perspective. I also feel like I’m able to listen to what the youth wants.
Emanuel said she would like to see more advocates join PEEP to help support the students. “PEEP needs a voice, and we want families to know that there are more methods and resources out there to help their kids go to college,” she said.
For the past couple of years, PEEP has gone through some transitions and has fallen dormant, but now Dixon has decided to resurrect the organization. With many Americans working remotely due to the pandemic and with the stay-in-place government restrictions in place, Dixon has decided to adapt to the present climate.
“This pandemic has given us time to reflect and to think about where we want to go,” said Dixon. Because of the Covid restrictions, PEEP will use virtual learning to move PEEP forward, she said. Also, the acronym PEEP now stands for the Pride Educational Empowerment Program. PEEP will continue to raise money for scholarships and host programs within organizations and the school system, Dixon said.
Since its inception, PEEP has streamlined its program to address education, entrepreneurship and financial literacy. “These pillars of learning are essential in all students’ development,” said Dixon, who will “step back up in the day-to-day operations of PEEP,” she said.
Pride Magazine and Dixon are calling on the community to help. “PEEP is looking for additional board members and we’re seeking donations,” she said. If you’re interested in speaking at an event, making a charitable donation or joining PEEPs board of directors, please contact Dixon online at PeepCharlotte.org, on Instagram @PEEPCharlotte or directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.