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As a young child, moving from the inner city to the county was a big deal to me. My Mom, a single mom, did her best to provide for her five children. She never really made it known to her kids how bad things were financially. It seemed like this new place would work, until I came home from school one day to find a yellow paper: an eviction notice on our door.

Getting kicked out of our home sent my family into a crisis, and my mother was enraged. I sat there in tears as she yelled and cursed at me. I felt embarrassed, guilty, ashamed, and responsible. I was the only older sibling who was not working and contributing to our family. With nowhere to go, we ended up in a motel. And even though that was better than living on the streets, I never told anyone. I never told anyone how I blamed myself for our family not having enough money. I felt guilty because I played sports and did extra-curricular activities so I couldn’t always babysit for my younger siblings. I felt like no matter what I did, I was only making matters worse. So, I just stopped trying. Until GEM. My GEM leaders and my mentor knew that something was wrong. At GEM, they encouraged me to open up about my home life and grow and learn from all the different things that were going on.

GEM provided me with extraordinary mentors.

I was trying to learn how to be independent by shutting everyone out and making it seem like I was always doing fine, but I wasn’t. I was struggling; overwhelmed with the responsibility of being the oldest daughter and trying to help my mother but also trying to be a normal teenager and succeed in school. My GEM leaders and my amazing mentor, Mayme, helped me to realize that I needed to take care of myself and that I could be a student, teenager, and daughter all at the same time.

GEM empowered me.

I needed to get out of my house in order to thrive. GEM provided me with a safe space and caring adults who truly wanted what was best for me, and they helped me realize that I was not responsible for my siblings or supporting my family. GEM helped me apply to colleges and scholarships, to convince my mother to let me move away from home (which was NOT easy) and even drove me to school on many occasions. My mentor even took my mother and I up to Thiel College in Pennsylvania to look at it so my mother could see where I’d be. My mentor helped both me and my mom get jobs so our family would have stability.

GEM is a lifeline for a lifetime.

I am proud to say that I entered Thiel college in 2011 and graduated in 2015 with a BA in Psychology and a minor Sociology. I am finally out in the career world and trying to make a difference in the lives of others. In addition to working as a Housing Inspector for Baltimore City, I recently earned my certification in Cosmetology. Someday I hope to open my own salon and teach others to become cosmetologists, too. Now that I am in a position to do so, it has been my pleasure to give back to GEM as a volunteer and I also hope to become a mentor in the near future. With continuing help from GEM’s alumnae program, I’m learning how to balance work, family, and volunteering. I’m also learning how to transition from a successful young woman into a successful adult. It’s definitely true that once you are a GEM girl, you will always be a GEM girl. Thanks to the support and influence of the wonderful women in this program, I have learned my true worth.

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