If you follow my social media or have watched my journey through the Miss America Organization, you’ve probably heard me mention something called GEMS a few times. You may already know about it, or you could be wondering, “What is GEMS?” Well, today is your lucky day, because I want to share one of my favorite things in the entire WORLD with you.
Let’s go wayyy back…
If you know anything about the Miss America Organization, you know that a huge part of being involved is having the opportunity to choose a platform (an issue or cause that you feel passionate about that you wish to promote). Many women will choose their platform based on their personal life experiences, or partner with an organization that they truly love. Some examples include platforms about military support, mental health awareness, the importance of arts education, autism awareness, literacy, domestic violence awareness, etc. Essentially, every woman has a unique story that they are able to share through their platform.
I always had a passion for women and girl’s empowerment, so I knew that it would be a great thing to be able to promote through my platform. I am the oldest of five children in my family, I was an assistant cheer/dance coach for a year, and I volunteer with Girl Scouts, among other opportunities to see the impact of girl’s empowerment. Through these experiences, I have seen how important it is for girls to feel strong and confident, because it fuels their fire to succeed.
First, I chose to promote the Girl Up campaign through the United Nations Foundation, which was something I really enjoyed. Girl Up focuses on ensuring that every girl, worldwide, has the resources to be safe, healthy, educated, and counted. I am still a huge supporter of this campaign, however, I wanted to hit a little closer to home.
I thought to myself, “Jess, why not have your own program?”
This is when I teamed up with a wonderful friend and mentor, Brenda Collins, to share ideas and develop a program for girls right here at home. We wanted every girl to find their worth, know that they are valued, and allow them to begin to explore some ways that they can use their individual talents and passions to serve others. This is when GEMS was born.
SO…what is GEMS?
GEMS is an acronym standing for Girls Empowered and Motivated to Serve. It is a program designed for young girls and women to interact, support, and encourage one another to be confident, motivated, and service-minded.
With GEMS, I am able to reach out to community organizations and schools across Wisconsin to organize workshops and establish clubs for girls (and even boys) to join, learn, and participate in conversation and activities about goal setting, perseverance, self worth, exploring talents and passions, life skills, and community service opportunities.
GEMS Workshop VS. GEMS Club
The difference between a GEMS workshop and a GEMS club is permanence. A GEMS workshop can be held ANYWHERE with any group of people. It is a one-time event, usually scheduled to be a couple hours long, we discuss a variety of topics during that time, and participate in a small service project. A GEMS club, on the other hand, is more permanent. For example, the GEMS Club at Portage High School consists of about 65 girls total. We meet monthly to discuss a different topic at each meeting, participate in group activities, and plan larger service projects throughout the school year.
GEMS workshops are usually tailored specifically to the group I meet with. From Daisy Girl Scouts, to co-ed middle school classrooms, to a Kiwanis Club, the curriculum differs slightly depending on the needs and interests of the group. My favorite part about it is that I am able to bring something new to the table at every workshop!
Why is this important?
Our communities need confident, motivated, service-minded young people to step up and be the next generation of leaders. It’s important that we provide an environment for young people, specifically girls, to empower each other, find their passions, and steer those passions into an avenue of community service. Each girl possesses a unique ability and it’s crucial that we encourage them to use their talents in positive ways to contribute to their communities.
If you have more questions about GEMS, or would like to schedule a visit to your classroom, organization, event, meeting, or troop, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. I can’t wait to meet more sparkling GEMS across the state of Wisconsin.