Shari Cain, M.A., CMHC, LGPC, NCC has always been ambitious. Sporting a 4.0 in high school, she was also a member of several student organizations and always up for challenges and new experiences. When her English teacher nominated her for the inaugural group of Girls’ Empowerment Mission (GEM), she jumped at the chance to learn something new and develop a great support system.
“At the time, my mom was separating from my stepdad and I started my first official job, and I thought GEM could help me during this stressful period,” says Shari, who admits though her life was changing, it wasn’t as troubled as some of the other GEM girls’. “I gained a network of people who understood me as well as a lifelong sisterhood. Most importantly, since 2005, I’ve been involved in an organization that promotes womanhood and strong independent skills, which is something I admire in my mom and it’s been great to see in other women as well.”
Shari’s GEM experience led her on a successful path forward. “I’ve always strived for perfection, and that can cause a lot of stress. Part of GEM’s program is to offer one-on-one counseling sessions and not only did it help me personally, but those meetings also inspired me to become a mental health counselor. Today, I’m helping people of Baltimore and servicing the community and adolescents who live there.”
The road to Shari opening her own private counseling business was not always easy. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without GEM,” she explains. “Unlike high school where I was first in my class, college was very hard. I was in this new environment at the University of Maryland, College Park with a host of new responsibilities; the work was harder and there were bigger expectations. I wanted to quit and my mom said I could come home and go to community college. It was around the time that GEM had a retreat near campus and I was able to join them. That’s when I talked to founder and director Mrs. Weinberg and some of the other important GEM people in my life who all said don’t quit.” Shari went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology at College Park and then a master’s degree in clinical mental health from Argosy University.
GEM helps girls manage life in high school, but also prepares them for challenging work beyond graduation and into college and the real world. Looking back, she can’t imagine where she’d be without GEM. “It’s a life-changing and life-saving organization. Most of us have left our hometown and have established successful careers, many in helping professions. I don’t see how all of these young women would be where they are today without GEM.”
In 2012, Shari joined the board. “It was amazing to go through the GEM experience, and now I’m honored to be the first alumna to go behind the scenes and not only understand how the magic happens but also work side-by-side with other professional women who dedicate their time and talents so that GEM can continue its important mission. I’m blessed to be able to help shape other people’s lives and advocate for other young people. GEM truly changes lives and in turns helps us positively impact others.”