The first meeting of Girls Empowered and Motivated to Succeed — GEMS — at Theodore G. Davis Middle School focused on the future. The 21 girls in sixth, seventh and eighth grades created vision boards to clarify specific goals they would like to strive for and reach, according to a press release.
At first the girls didn’t know what to put on their boards, sitting in the library, flipping through the magazines, barely talking to each other. “Don’t be afraid to be adventurous,” said Sonja Djossou, administrative assistant at Davis who runs GEMS with Cherelle Myles, a long-term substitute who teaches language arts and special education classes.
Soon scissors were clipping out pictures of dogs — “I want to work with animals,” seventh grader Avery Lawson said — while Keaton Williams, a sixth grader, pasted photos of food to her board to represent her love of cooking and Noel Ingram, a seventh-grade student, collected pictures of athletes as a way to motivate her.
Djossou and Myles want the girls to post the boards at home to remember the goals they’re working toward. “We want to motivate young girls,” Myles said. “We can talk about various issues whether it be at school or home.”
“It’s an opportunity to not only build relationships, they can learn to apply the skills they learn here,” said Karen Moore, a pupil personnel worker at Davis. “They are learning different strategies they can use through middle school, high school and life.”
GEMS started last year as a club for eighth grade girls, but opened up to all Davis girls this year. They meet once a week after school and get together one Saturday a month to work on a community service project. The girls are not required to attend meetings and if they feel the club is not for them, they don’t have to stay. The members are there because they want to be.
The club is meant to inspire girls to be themselves, explore their interests and help each other.
“It’s a place to feel comfortable and not feel pressure,” eighth grader Darrah Somerville said.
“You can just be you without anyone judging you,” Nia Loper, a sixth-grade student, said.