Jessicka Mears’ passion for education started before she was born. Through her family’s stories, Jessicka learned that her grandfather, after raising seven children, went back to high school and earned his GED. He knew that education could open doors to vast opportunities. Seeing her father’s success earning his GED inspired Jessicka’s mother to attend college—she was the first woman in her community to do so. Such a feat did not go unnoticed. Her community came together and raised funds to pay for her tuition.
In naming Jessicka after her grandfather, Jesse, Mrs. Mears passed the baton to her daughter. Although Jessicka’s passion for education became a family affair, she decided to become a teacher (and eventually a principal) when she realized that her teachers did not look like her. From a young age, Jessicka knew that education could help our society. She saw it in her grandfather and her mother.
As a teacher, she felt passionately about developing her young students and supporting them to reach their full potential. As a principal, her job is to be the best instructional leader and role model she can be for her teachers and her students.
When Jessicka joined Compton Unified School District as the principal at Stephen C. Foster Elementary School, she knew first-hand the kinds of struggles the families, children, and educators faced in the community. She grew up in Inglewood, a demographically similar community to Compton. After earning her teaching degree, Jessicka returned to her childhood elementary school to begin her educational career, proud to make an impact in the lives of the young children at the school she once attended. When she started to feel hungry to make an impact beyond the classroom, she resolved to become a principal, and this path took her to Compton Unified, where she said, “I’m needed more here.”
As a principal at Stephen C. Foster, Jessicka identifies with her students. She approaches her job each day striving to be the best leader she can for her students and teachers. She understands the students see her and their teachers as role models, and takes that responsibility seriously.
“As soon as I share my background with my students and teachers, we now know we are fighting the same battle,” Jessicka said.
Jessicka and her colleagues want to close the opportunity gap. They want to help students build a foundation from which they can grow and experience a different life than many in their community. And as a principal in Compton, this is something Jessicka is confident she can do.
“I know their history. I know their stories.”
Thus far, in her tenure at Stephen C. Foster Elementary, Jessicka has developed partnerships with local organizations to support her students and families. When she realized that many of her families could use extra support, she created a food pantry and partnered with a local food bank to distribute food to families.
“It takes a village to raise children and support families. And although I didn’t grow up in Compton, I am a member of this village and I see those families and children and we need to support them.”
Jessicka, also knows that families are the foundation for a child’s first years. They are the first teachers to their young children. She also knows that parents and caregivers in Compton don’t always have access to the knowledge and resources necessary to support their children at home. That’s why she chose to invite PBS SoCal to become a part of that village.
Together, PBS SoCal and Stephen C. Foster strive to create collaborative action around families, educators and children; support inside the classroom and out of school; and build a culture of education and readiness.
With PBS SoCal’s support as a partner, Jessicka Mears aligns resources to proven strategies to support kindergarten readiness and third-grade reading achievement.
“When PBS SoCal comes to our school and supports our families, teachers, and children with materials and resources, it is a great added value to our school. We do not need to worry about funding for those resources.”
Jessicka also highlights the flexibility and collaborative spirit of her partnership with PBS SoCal.
“When we work together, it is not just PBS SoCal’s way. But we come to the table together as collaborators. Some organizations tell you ‘I’m going to give you an instrument, but you don’t have a say whether it is a piano or a guitar that you need.’”
Like Jessicka, PBS SoCal is committed to the idea that education can make a real difference in the lives of children. We’re excited about the impact we’re making on Stephen C. Foster community. And we’re proud that Jessicka knows she can count on another member of the village to continue to have a positive influence in Compton communities.