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In Loudoun, a kitchen table and a youth sports program set kids up for success |

In Loudoun, a kitchen table and a youth sports program set kids up for success

Dominion high school football players shake sleep from their eyes as they trudge into the kitchen around noon. Legs sore from training camp lead hungry mouths down from the bedrooms, up from the basement, and in through the front door.

One-by-one, 10 teenage boys gather around the large wooden table that comfortably seats a dozen. They demolish the first tray of sausage biscuits and cinnamon rolls. Seconds and thirds are on the way. 


From behind the kitchen island, Jeri Pierre monitors skillets and ovens. Kindly, she offers the table everything from dating advice to playful insults to ice packs. “Mrs. Jeri” has been to Harris Teeter, Wegmans and Shoppers Food Warehouse all in the last three days. Out of three refrigerators, she serves up Texas-sized hospitality in Sterling, Va.

“Anything that is in my house is for everyone,” the 57-year-old from outside Dallas said. “And there’s always food.”

Jeri Pierre, third from right, walks with her sons and players she mentors before a Dominion football game. (Courtesy of Jeri Pierre)

This August morning is not a special occasion. Jeri’s table has been full ever since her 17-year-old twins, Jadan and Jayde, joined the D1 Sports and Athletics Spartans, a nonprofit football and basketball program, in elementary school. Through youth sports and now high school football, dozens of athletes in Loudon County know this six-bedroom house with eight couches as a combination of diner, motel and classroom. 

For some, this kitchen table provides necessary support on a journey to a college education and athletics.

“I wish people I’ve known could have met Mrs. Jeri, because she would have changed their life,” Dominion wide receiver George Richardson III said. “That woman is amazing. If I didn’t know her, I don’t know where I would be.”

Jeri is white, while the twins’ father is from the island of St. Lucia. The two divorced in 2011. Jeri grew up about 20 miles east of Dallas, where her grandmother sent her into the neighborhood to hand out batches of corn bread and red beans. 

Her first day of first grade in 1966 was also the first day that Rockwall Elementary integrated with black students. Her mother taught middle school health science and provided a stable home environment for black students without one.

Jeri remembers when her family went out to eat, other families left in the middle of their meal as she and her parents walked through the door with black kids.

“I never understood the way some people think,” Jeri said. “Just because somebody is black or poor or anything, it doesn’t make them a bad person.”

Jadan, a 200-pound running back, and Jayde, a 300-pound lineman, sit across from each other while Richardson quietly slumps into a chair off to the side of the table. The seniors met on the same Spartans basketball team in third grade.

After his mother was killed in a car accident when he was 9 years old, Richardson started spending weekends here. He grew up without consistent contact with his father. The summer before his freshman year of high school, Jeri received custody of him and he moved in.

This past June, Richardson committed to play football at the University of Albany.

“Since no one in my family has succeeded and gone to college, I feel like it’s a lot on me. I think that if I mess up, I’m just like another one of them. It’s a lot of pressure,” Richardson said. “With Mrs. Jeri, we have talks, and she always says, ‘You’re going to make it. I got you.’ And that’s what I need to be hearing. I need that support.”

As Jeri empties laundry machines and hands out sandwiches to be eaten between that afternoon’s two-a-days, D1SA founder Eric Williams sits down at the table and opens his laptop. In 2008, he coached a handful of kids in the gym at the Douglass Community Center in Leesburg. From this table, Wiliams has grown the organization to nearly 350 boys and girls across 37 basketball and football teams. Despite an increase in numbers, the program remains focused on supporting individuals with a community network.

“I’m from Brooklyn, where sometimes it takes a whole village, the whole street, to raise some kids,” said Williams, whose son Jalen is a senior point guard at Loudoun Valley. “That’s what we’re doing here in Loudoun County. We give kids support and the chance to compete. We don’t care where you start.”

Beyond practices and games, Williams calls school counselors about grades and asks players to help find solutions for their teammates in the classroom. Jeri provides tutors at her kitchen table.

“D1 helped me become a better person in life by surrounding myself with people that were on the same mission as me,” said Billie Walker, a 2017 Dominion graduate who lived at Jeri’s house during his final three years of high school and is now a linebacker at Lackawanna Junior College in Pennsylvania. “Mrs. Jeri would always motivate me and push me to be great in the classroom. If it wasn’t for her support, I wouldn’t have qualified for [junior college].”

Before last summer, Loudoun Valley senior Jordan Miller drew interest from some of the area’s top AAU programs but stuck with the Spartans. When he announced his commitment to George Mason on Twitter, the 6-foot-6 forward thanked God, his high school coach, Williams and Mrs. Jeri.

“I describe it as a family brand of basketball. D-1 wants to get the best character out of you. The history that we build off the court together beats any type of shoe-sponsor team,” Miller said. “For me and a lot of the kids I grew up with, Mrs. Jeri is our second mother.”

Jadan, Jayde, who is a three-star recruit according to Rivals.com, and Richardson all plan on playing college football. Walker has another year at Lackawanna, and Miller is headed to George Mason. Next fall these brothers will be eating on campuses miles away from this kitchen. Jeri says she doesn’t know what she’ll do, but nobody imagines her table will be empty.

“I kind of call her crazy. She talks a lot more than anyone else I know, but she’s just proud of us. She’s proud of everyone that she calls her son,” Jayde said. “She’s all love, and she’s proud of us. She loves what she does — taking care of all the kids that come to her in need.”

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