We had the good fortune of connecting with Ishmael Pruitt and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Ishmael, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
When I first decided that I wanted to establish a business I was extremely motivated with an overwhelming feeling of nervousness. I had not created something from scratch that would stand on its own. I lacked the foundational knowledge of business which included marketing, finance, organizational structure. Without these elements, I wasn’t certain that the organization would thrive. However, my time as a student leader at Sacramento State, provided me the confidence in leading people toward my vision. I knew that the community needed my skills and expertise, and to not take a chance would be selfish. I knew that the success of the organization would create new opportunities of advancement for historically underserved communities. The resolution of my internal conflict came through the relationship that was established with the Co-founder, Armoni Easley. His passion for the work and resiliency was enough to give us the boost we needed to get momentum. From this we were able to use the organization as an art form to create new ways to serve our community.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I earned my Bachelor’s Degree from Sacramento State in 2015 with hope of becoming a Probation Officer. My passion lied in wanting to reduce recidivism for young Black boys. This goal came to a close when I was denied employment to 5 different agencies. After 5 years of “doing what I was supposed to do” I still was without a job and with thousands of student loan debt. In the time of grief, I was challenged to think of other way to make the same impact. That is when the idea of getting into k-12 education presented itself. I knew that students of color were disproportionately placed in special education when all they really needed is someone who could understand their personal challenges and extra time with the content. I got my start working in education after getting placed at a Black-serving charter school in Sacramento, Fortune School of Education. Through this i was able to understand the education system and its flaws, barriers experienced my families, and opportunities for change. After doing this for some time, I developed the itch to working with getting students to college. That is when I become a college recruiter. Not liking feeling of being a salesmen, I decided that I wanted to actually get into the college setting and develop students who would successfully give back to their community. Understand that universities are large non profits, I saw this as an opportunity to be observant practices that could be brought to Project Optimism. Working as co-CEO while trying ‘to earn a Master’s degree and working full time at the university was extremely taxing. However I knew the sacrifice would pay for PO and the community. I owe a big shoutout to my co founder Armoni for holding it down for us. Becuase of his grind, the organization was sustained for 3 year and now we are doing better than ever!

If there is one thing I want people to know about Project Optimism, it is that we are here to do the work with the people for the people. Let us know how can collaborate to make our communities better.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Depending on the friend we would hit up my goto’s Monty’s burger, Roscoe’s in Inglewood specifically, Little Ethiopia, Leimert Park, and a bunch of dope brunch spots. There are too many to name but everyone loves brunch. Other than that, we would probably go to Venice Beach, that’s the only beach tourist thinkexists.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Joy Pate – Wife
Armoni Easley – Co Founder
Dominique Beaumonte’ – Mentor
Dr. Ericka Burns- Peer Mentor
Kaliah Kirkland – Peer Mentor

Website: Projectoptimism.org

Instagram: ProjectoptimismLA

Twitter: ishmaeldpruitt

Youtube: Project Pptimism

Image Credits
ADAN Productions Cam Shots ShotByTC

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutLA is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.