Jean Pierre was born in Gonaives, Haiti, a city in Northern Haiti. Gonaives is an agricultural municipality. Cotton, sugar, coffee, mango, banana and cabinet wood are among its most common produce. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Schools in Haiti are unaffordable, so fewer than half of all Haitians go to primary school, and less than 20 percent go to high school. Almost all schools in Haiti are privately run and ask for tuition fees which creates a barrier for the more than 90 percent of the children living in Haiti.
In Haiti there are two classes of people: a tiny cluster of the wealthy, and everyone else. Most Haitians live on $2 a day or less. Jean Pierre was fortunate to be born into that tiny cluster of wealth.
An only child, Jean Pierre was fourteen-years old when he emigrated with his father from Haiti to Shreveport, Louisiana, where he entered the ninth grade at a private all boys high school. Jean was unusual for a Haitian immigrant in that he came from a privileged background. His father had grown up in a poor household that had neither electricity nor running water. His parents were illiterate but valued education and scrimped and saved every cent they could earn from menial employment to pay for Jean’s father to attend school. Haiti’s school system is dominated by non-public schools. More than eighty percent of primary schools are non-public, and they educate more than eighty percent of all primary school children. The nonpublic-schools are either for-profit, faith-based, or run by non-governmental organizations.
Jean’s father did very well in school and earned a scholarship to college, where he dual majored in business and technology. His father opened a series of businesses in Haiti where he sold imported consumer electronics and computer equipment and provides Internet and other computer-related services. Before Jean and his father moved to Shreveport, his father had sold his business interests in Haiti and invested in similar interests in Louisiana.
Despite Jean’s affluent background, there has been tragedy in his young life. His mother had died of breast cancer when Jean was eight. His father worked six days a week and after the death of his wife employed a live-in nanny to care for Jean, a young woman named Tamara. She loved to sing and play her acoustic guitar. Tamara would often sing folk songs to Jean, who had always enjoyed her music.
When he was eleven, Jean suffered from rheumatic fever and was out of school for two months. His father hired a private tutor to come to their home to try to keep Jean current with his studies. During the period when he was recovering from rheumatic fever, Jean asked Tamara if he could try her guitar and found that he had an aptitude for playing the guitar.
As a result, his father bought Jean his own guitar, which he plays in the orchestra of his new school in Shreveport. Jean likes school in America and has made friends. Jean also learned to play the piano and the drums. The high school orchestra director had graduated from the College of Music and Dramatic Arts at LSU. He recognized Jean’s musical gifts and has encouraged hm to consider attending LSU and majoring in music after he graduates from high school.