Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

“Here’s the Keys”: Jeannetta Politis takes the reins of Joshua Group, continuing the group’s pro-education, anti-poverty mission

Jeannetta Politis

Joshua Group may have a new leader, but its mission remains unchanged—to help disadvantaged youth in Harrisburg.

In February, Jeannetta Politis was appointed executive director, filling the shoes of well-known founder, Kirk Hallett, who retired after a long career.

“I plan to continue Kirk’s mission of providing at-risk youth in Harrisburg with educational opportunities and to expand the program,” Politis said. “I also want to find additional ways to serve our students with developing a strategic plan to provide more services.”

Joshua Group operates as a nonprofit learning center, offering pre-school, kindergarten, summer and scholarship programs at no cost to qualifying families through its various funding and donors. For Joshua Group’s board of directors, Politis’ appointment was a slam-dunk, according to board president Matthew Brouillette.

“Everyone immediately and unanimously embraced the idea,” he said. “Having served on the board herself and understanding both the mission and culture of Joshua, we all knew Jeannetta would be the perfect successor to carry on the work that Kirk started over 20 years ago.”

Hallett founded Joshua Group in 1998 with a broad goal of wanting to help Harrisburg children, he recently recalled.

“I had a mission to help kids in Harrisburg to get an education so they can contribute to society, as well as the job market,” he said. “Joshua Group has always believed in the power of education as the anti-poverty program that works.”

The nonprofit started up that year in the former St. Francis School building and gym, beginning mostly as a recreational program. More programs followed, focused largely on educational issues, helping kids stay in school and encouraging graduation, according to Hallett.

In 2003, Joshua Group representatives and supporters restored a house on the 1400-block of Market Street as an operational base.

“This new location… gave us a greater presence in the neighborhood and allowed us to establish a variety of new programs to include tutoring to fulfill the increased demand for our outreach services,” Hallett said

In 2007, the organization became a program partner of the United Way for its local community work. The Joshua Learning Center opened in 2014, offering a range of educational programs and services in Allison Hill. The facility currently serves around 250 low-income children and families from the Harrisburg School District.

The Joshua Group Preschool Program runs at the center from Head Start’s waiting list for 3- to 5-year olds from low-income families in Harrisburg. Joshua Group also offers a full-day kindergarten licensed by the state Department of Education for up to 17 students, as well as a seven-week summer learning program. The center’s J-Crew After-School Program is a comprehensive academic tutoring and social mentoring program serving more than 175 K-12 students.

Politis has a lot on her plate in her new role, overseeing these many programs and responsibilities. But Hallett said that she has the knowledge, experience and skills that he knew his successor would need.

Indeed, Politis brings “business and numbers” expertise to the job, coming from a career spanning more than 20 years in the retail and commercial banking industry. During her nine years as a Joshua Group board director, she assisted Hallett with a strategic course of philanthropy to better coordinate corporate giving with Joshua Group’s educational mission. In fact, she most recently served as the board’s secretary.

“Jeannetta has been perfect for us,” Hallett said. “I believe she was the first person to come to me and say that she wanted the job, and I said to her, ‘Here’s the keys.’”

The Joshua Learning Center is located at 1459 Market St., Harrisburg. For information about its programs or to donate, visit or call the center at 717-972-0129 or office at 717-236-4464.

If you like what we do, please support our work. Become a Friend of TheBurg!

Continue Reading