Flint, MI — Tucked inside the office building at 653 Saginaw Street, Pamela Price is working to lower Flint school district’s dropout rate, which was at 25.6% for 2019-2020—more than three times the state’s average.
From her Saginaw and Third Street headquarters Price, the board chair for nonprofit Priceless Dreams, plans to host a back-to-school celebration on Friday, August 13 from noon to 9 p.m. The event will feature a school supply and clothing giveaway along with face painting and a book reading from local children’s author Smith Barner.
But that is just one of the many things Price does for Flint’s community under the Priceless Dreams moniker.
Price began Priceless Dreams in August 2017 from her basement after learning that young people were leaving school, in part, because of something she felt able to help with: their clothing.
Family finances can bleed into access issues for clothing or clean clothing, Price said, sitting in her office’s bright white conference room. Two walls of the space are taken up by shelves of toys, children’s books, and young adult novels, all of which Price encourages the young people she serves to take home when they visit.
“When you don’t look a certain way, or you don’t have clean clothes, the next step is bullying,” said Price. “People pick on you … so you go to the back of the room. And then you stop coming. You go from the back of the room to not attending at all.”
So Price began collecting donated clothes, sorting and cleaning them, and giving them out to Flint’s students ranging from kindergarten through college or trade school. One full room of her current office suite is filled with donated items stacked on tables and stuffed in cardboard boxes.
Price, who is also a senior technical account manager for Oracle, said she has a natural curiosity for learning—her LinkedIn lists seven degrees and certificate programs—so she kept seeking more ways to help Flint students as she provided them clothing.
Price realized many of the city’s young people were also struggling with low literacy levels, so she decided to add a literacy program to Priceless Dreams’ offerings.
“Children can learn words, but that doesn’t mean they understand or comprehend what they’re reading,” said Price. “So I asked the different parents: can you read to your children?” She said many parents told her they were unable to read themselves, so Price formed ‘family literacy’ courses to help parents develop their reading skills, too.
Price and her network of volunteers now read with community members and students out of her office space and at events in local schools. They also regularly hold book donation drives and even coordinate authors to join some of their in-school or larger scale reading events.
Price said she’s also become a “resource advocate” as she found that many people need support beyond her core services of clothing and literacy. She defines “resource advocate” as helping people get connected to the proper support service for their specific need.
Price said that can mean calling around to many other local nonprofits on behalf of someone or a group that comes to her first, hosting resume review sessions, and even helping folks talk to their pharmacies.
“People always joke about, ‘when do you sleep?’” said Price. “I don’t know!”
To support her ever-expanding services, Price opened a consignment store in her multi-room suite space on the corner of Saginaw and Third Street earlier this year. The Priceless Consignment Closet Experience features two rooms of clothes, shoes, and even essentials like deodorant. Some of the shop’s higher end offerings can be viewed from the display window on Third Street, where an array of high heels and a sparkling black dress feature prominently.
When asked about how to encapsulate her mission now, four years, many added services, and one consignment shop after she began trying to keep Flint’s kids in school, Price did not skip a beat.
“Our mission is to ensure every individual gets a chance to succeed,” she said.
Price’s back-to-school event on August 13 will also have a jewelry making table set up during the Flint Art Walk from 6 to 9 p.m. for adults to join in. There is no need to pre-register for either event, Price said.