Jack and Jill of America Inc. is a non-profit organization that was founded by 20 African American mothers in Philadelphia in 1938. The purpose of the group was to encourage their children-especially those in racially isolated environments-to interact with each other and prepare to be leaders.

Today the organization is active in the community and provides educational and culturally-based social, recreational, health related and legislative activities for youth. Jack and Jill has since grown into a national entity of more than 9,500 families, with 225 chapters across the nation. It is the largest African American family organization in the country providing community service and constructive educational opportunities.

The Los Angeles chapter of Jack and Jill was formed in 1948 by pharmacist Emily Brown Portwig, Ph.D. who learned of the Jack and Jill organization while visiting her good friend Emilie Pickens-the second National president-in Brooklyn. Although she did not have any children of her own, her sister, Josephine Brown had two offspring and Dr. Portwig felt that her niece, Emily and nephew, Conklin would benefit from the organization.

The Los Angeles Chapter in partnership with the City of Los Angeles plans to hold a college preparatory and family enrichment fair in the Crenshaw District on Nov. 14 from 12-4 p.m. at 3328 W. 43rd St., Leimert Park on the corner of Degnan. There will also be case studies between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm and the public can participate in mock admission procedures.

The community educational event will feature participation from deans, diversity admissions officers, recruiters and alumni from colleges and universities, who will interact with a focused college-bound student pool. The professionals will also participate in panel discussions and there will 13 different workshops.

“The reason that I started this two years ago when I was active, was (because I was) involved with coordinating the high schoolers, and I thought that it was very important to get Jack and Jill teens to help other teens who don’t have the same privileges that they do, because a lot of them are not in public schools. Community service is huge in Jack and Jill and teaching teens to give back,” said Donna Tizenor-Tate, who recently graduated to Legacy member.

“Most of the people in our community do not have the funds to travel around on college tours or to go with their families privately. So, my concept was to bring all of the colleges together. Normally HBCU’s don’t travel with Ivy League schools, so I thought it best to go across all systems and get them to come to our neighborhood.

“We reached out to several universities in 2008 and told them we wanted their African American recruiters to come out and talk to students and their families about financial aid and scholarships. We were very successful and had about 300 people attend last time.”

“This year we partnered with Council District 8, Kaiser Permanente, McDonald’s, Honda, and a host of other local merchants in Leimert Park. So we are planning to be even bigger this year, at least 400 people will attend because we are reaching out to churches and public schools and other Jack and Jill chapters,” said Tate.

“All high school student are encouraged to bring their unofficial transcripts because there will be counselors available to talk with youngsters about their options, something that is often missing in school where students don’t meet their college counselors until their senior year,” said Tate.

College counselors will also be available to advise students on academic achievement and career plans in small group and one-on-one counseling sessions.

As a part of their community service efforts, Jack and Jill teens members will publish a free 60-page booklet which highlights specific college programs and activities of interest to African American students.

Participating students and parents from local schools, churches and Jack and Jill chapters throughout Los Angeles, will have the opportunity to discover a broad range of colleges and universities without limiting their choices or going to great expense to visit these schools.

A family enrichment fair will simultaneously take place for younger students and it will include workshops, enrichment programs, and college preparatory information that is useful even while the youngsters are still in middle school. If you are interested in joining the Los Angeles chapter of Jack and Jill of America Inc., you must be sponsored by two members. Applications are generally due mid-November of the year preceding initiation into the chapter.

For more information on Jack and Jill or the upcoming college fair, contact Donna Tate at (310) 430-3984 or visit the organization’s website at www.jjfarwest.org/losangeles.