Thunderbirds Charities awards Zion Institute $80,000 to expand its Early Childhood Education Excellence

Thunderbirds Charities recently presented Zion Institute a check in the amount of $80,000, towards the expansion of their PS-EXCELLENCE (Preschool excellence) program.

Zion Institute provides resources to residents and businesses in South Phoenix to stimulate economic growth, revitalize neighborhoods and strengthen community bonds. Shawn Pearson is the Founder and CEO of Zion Institute and is passionate about the mission.

“I was given access to knowledge, experiences, relationships, and opportunities beyond what my personal circumstances could afford,” said Pearson. “That access changed the trajectory of my life and is the genesis for everything we do in Zion.”


In the past decade, Zion has assisted with the launch and enrichment of 41 resident owned businesses. Zion’s early education model, combined with Open Table’s Convening model, created a platform to serve 300 children and families through Zion Early Learning Academy. This donation of $80,000 will allow them to replicate their work and help countless more families.

“Quality, accessible early childhood education is an essential facet of an equitable and prosperous community,” said Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego. “This model, combining the Zion Institute’s expertise with cross-sector community support, will not only benefit South Phoenix families for generations to come but will bring cascading benefits for our entire city.”

The Phoenix Police Department and Open Table have a long history of partnering with Zion to serve the residents of south Phoenix. The focus and intentionality of this project has allowed the 3 agencies to once again work together to fulfill that mission.

Speakers included: 

Tim Woods, President Thunderbirds Charities

Shawn Pearson, Founder & CEO of Zion Institute

Michael Kurtenbach, Phoenix Police Executive Assistant Chief

Ms. Kaylene Sarazin, a mother and community member

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