Zion Institute Founder Shawn Pearson on Overcoming Statistics

Shawn Pearson is the founder of Zion Institute in South Phoenix. She founded her organization in 2001 to help break the cycles of poverty. Part of what makes Pearson such an outstanding leader is her commitment to recognizing and nurturing potential. 
 
Her personal experiences helped her understand that sometimes it’s those who, based on statistics, would have the least potential that could make the greatest contributions to their communities. “I should have been almost every statistic there is about a young, black woman or a woman without degrees or a woman raised in a household with mental illness,” Pearson said. Here she is now, a black female founder making a significant impact in the Phoenix community.
 
Pearson believes how she responds to resistance has made all the difference in how doors have opened for her despite the many challenges she faced. “I don’t choose my color, but I do choose my character,” Pearson said.
 
As a leader, Pearson has been willing to do the work of the CEO and the janitor. She maintains the belief that her influence comes with responsibility. Part of that responsibility is not taking “no” for an answer when the community is in need. “I don’t accept ‘no’ because my journey has been that if somebody else had said no and given up on the opportunities that I was given, then I wouldn’t be here,” she said.
 
Pearson even shared that she has a lot of talks with the mirror. Her self-awareness is extraordinary. 
 
“There’s some times in business [when] there are certain pieces of me that can’t be on the table,” she explained. “I don’t change who I am, I just find a different venue to express that side of me and still serve.”
 
Hear more from Shawn Pearson is the newest edition of Arizona Achievers.

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