Interviewer Marcus Rivera: How was GEMS created?
Founder Niya Anderson: Honestly, it was spiritual. I have the Gift of Prophecy and I dream things that are warnings to others, or he may show me something you are going through in private. So with me having that gift and being a dreamer, I pay close attention to my dreams. Back in August of 2016, i had a vision of me standing in front of a group of girls which is not the alarming part. What spoke to me is that I never had a dream where the sides were blurred out. So after waking up i thought about it but i didn't dwell on it. Two weeks later, I had the exact same dream but this time the crowd was even bigger and again the sides were blurred out and I had on the same outfit which was a blouse and a pencil skirt. That day was the start of something great. Although this journey is not easy and hasn't been easy, he has still shown me along the way that this is my purpose. God has sent the right women at the right time who all brings something different to GEMS. Just when i start to worry about anything, before I can turn around he brings me the answer.
Interviewer Marcus Rivera: When do you plan on venturing off?
Founder Niya Anderson: Right now we are building our foundation and going through the trial and error period to see what works best for us. So far the programs that we have in place are working and our 95% retention rate proves that. We've realized that when you're working with young adults, they are so fragile and everything you do or don't do within their life leaves an imprint.
Therefore, we want to make sure any girl that comes through our program leave with a good impression no matter if they're still involved or not.
We also get a variety of girls that all have different battles they are fighting.With that being said, before we are able to set up shop elsewhere, we want to make sure our in-house babies are fully taken care of and getting the things they need to become successful and made whole again.
We don't take what we do lightly or for granted because we are proving not only to our parents but to our girls that we are here and here to support them in every way possible. Our slogan is bridging the gap which in return requires us to be advocates for our girls. However, we are also here to bridge the gaps among our girls and their parents as well as our girls and the school system.
Interviewer Marcus Rivera: Is this only for black girls?
Founder Niya Anderson: No! We are very diverse. In the beginning when we were out on foot recruiting young girls and their parents, we handed out our information to all races but majority of our parents are black.
Interview Marcus Rivera: What do you take away from GEMS?
Founder Niya Anderson: First and foremost let me just state, it's very self-fulfilling which is something money can't buy. I wanted to create a safe haven for young girls to be able to give them something I didn't have growing up and expose them to different positive experiences while guiding them along the way. Our environment is nothing but love, empowerment, and transparency. We had girls who've came in and sat in the back, didn't interact with anyone, barely talked, etc but by the next month, they have come out of their shell and are more outspoken than the other girls. That alone lets us know that what we are doing is working especially when a young girl can come into our environment and freely be themselves without having to worry about being judged or disliked for being them. THAT'S WHAT KEEPS US MENTORS GOING!
Interviewer Marcus Rivera: What does GEMS mean to you personally?
Founder Niya Anderson: Honestly I can't completely explain what GEMS mean to me personally. I find myself calling it my third child because my two children (Jermiya and Jermari) are so precious to me just like GEMS. I'm very overprotective of GEMS and everyone that's connected which are the mentors, girls, and even their parents. This bond is so deep that I always pray for GEMS every time I pray to God. I thank him for the protection around GEMS, the mentors, girls, and parents. I even plead on their behalf for peace, direction, wisdom, and strength within their life. Anything and anyone that's attached to GEMS I take serious. I do not play about my people! We are a sisterhood and a family and i'm very territorial of my family. Let me also say this, I'm nothing without the other mentors. This vision is so huge, that I can't do it alone.
Interviewer Marcus Rivera: What do you see the legacy of GEMS being?
Founder Niya Anderson: When I leave this earth, I want to leave behind an organization that stands strong on the words of sisterhood, commitment, love, and support. I pray for GEMS to be international. I don't want GEMS to be just an organization but a lifestyle meaning whatever woman or young lady that enters into our world, they become the best version of themselves and go out into the world and help another woman or young girl be the best version of themselves.
Interviewer Marcus Rivera: Where do you see GEMS being within the next 5 years?
Founder Niya Anderson: In the next 3-5 years, GEMS will have its recreational center and one will be placed in my hometown Tupelo, MS.
Interviewer Marcus Rivera: Explain the programs GEMS offer...
Founder Niya Anderson: We have four different programs: Trailblazer, Evolving Young Ladies, I believe in You, and Beautiful Butterfly.
The Trailblazer program is our general program in which every young lady participates in. We expose them to different things such as financial literacy, etiquette, self-love, healing, effects of hanging around the wrong crowd, the power behind their skin color, and more. We offer free tutoring and free professional counseling as well as assistance with hygiene products and school supplies. We also take an annual trip once a year to a different state so each girl can be exposed to somewhere different.
The Evolving Young Ladies program is for our girls who may have or had continual behavioral issues within the school system. The director of this program sporadically visits the young ladies in this program at their school to eat lunch with them, take them motivational things to get them through their day and help them to remember they are more than a label. I say label because when a kid has a record of acting or carrying themselves a certain way, they are labeled. So we teach them that although they placed themselves in this situation it's never too late to turn it around and show the people something different. We also let them know it's not going to be easy and at some point it will be challenging because they are having to be a rose growing from a concrete if that makes sense. With that being said we are here to speak life, water, and nurture that rose until it can stand tall on its own.
The I Believe in You program is geared towards mentoring the young ladies within the juvenile system or detention facility. This program has not been put into effect just yet but will definitely be in our near future. We created this program to minister to these girls to let them know "hey we believe in you and you are not your circumstance. You can learn from this and still live a successful life IF you turn it around."
Lastly, the Beautiful Butterfly program is for our girls who are getting ready to age out of the organization. We help the parents with the transition into college. We assist with traveling costs and give each young lady a $100 food voucher. The girls also have the opportunity to come back and be junior mentors as well. Once we get more funding, we definitely look to help with book costs and other costly things that come along with college.
Interviewer Marcus Rivera: Do you all stop communication with the girls after they turn 18?
Founder Niya Anderson: Most definitely not. We are hoping they come back to be junior mentors, but even if they don’t we are here for a lifetime. They are reassured that we are here as well. We are family.
Interviewer Marcus Rivera: If I was a parent, why should I choose GEMS over other organizations?
Founder Niya Anderson: GEMS is more than just an organization. We are a family and sisterhood. Us mentors wholeheartedly incorporate these young girls into our everyday lives. When we say we are here, we are here. Our parents could call us and say "hey I need a break" and we are here to give it to them. We support our girls outside of our biweekly meetings and are here physically, emotionally, mentally, and financially for our girls if need be. It brings tears to my eyes sometimes when something horrific takes place in our girls lives no matter how big or small, because when they hurt we hurt. We do a lot of things in private for our parents and girls in which we don't broadcast to the world. The love we have for these girls are indescribable. I strategically capped our enrollment number at 30 because I wanted to not overload the mentors but allow each girl to get that one on one attention. It's quality over quantity with us.
Interviewer Marcus Rivera: What are five words that you want people to take from this interview or five words that you feel are necessary to empower young women to uplift each other?
Founder Niya Anderson: Unity, genuineness, love, support, and truth!
Interviewer Marcus Rivera: I just want to say thank you so much Ms. Anderson, it was such an honor to be able to speak with you about GEMS. I truly believe that this is something that can change the world when it comes to feminism and women empowerment. These little girls nowadays face the craziest things in regard to bullying, low self-esteem, and neglect. I feel like you are so genuine, and no one could have come up with a better program to support little girls and help them become young independent women. You hold the essence of Black Excellence and I love it. I'm very excited to see what is to come in years because I believe it will be something so amazing! Even more amazing as it already is.