It is difficult to imagine a life lived in turmoil; harder yet, it is incredible to reimagine that life as one devoid of fear, divisiveness, and doubt.  I have lived such a life, one marked by disquiet, anxiety, and upheaval. From an early age, I learned the meaning of survival. But my story also embraces positive emotions and qualities that have defined me--endurance, hope, self-realized worth.

The 2003 Civil War in Liberia, my birthplace, required my two siblings and my mother to flee on foot to save their lives from warring soldiers who thought nothing of burning homes, destroying villages, and killing innocent countrymen. Just seven years old, I remained behind with my beloved grandparents. After the war, it was safe for my family to return to their village, but a kinder environment was not to be found. My grandmother had died, and my mother chose to relocate the family to the United States where my father had moved earlier years before.

My siblings and I would come to live with our mother, our grandfather, and an uncle in a one-room apartment in a land that treated us as undocumented immigrants. Eventually a move to Essex in Baltimore County would enable me at age twelve to hope for a sense of belonging, despite not having seen my father since I was a baby.  My middle school days were difficult due to the differences between Liberian English and the English spoken in America. In the company of a new-found friend who had also come from Liberia, I navigated my early teen years best as I could.

But it was in high school that I felt most self-realized. Becoming a member of the Girls’ Empowerment Mission (GEM) was truly a lifeline for me, allowing me to bond with peers and to gain mentors who understood a teenage girl’s need to engage in positive activities, enlightening experiences, and mindful retreats. GEM made all the difference to me, providing a lifeline of hope to me: a very grateful girl.

Through GEM I found friendship, connection, and opportunity to grow emotionally and academically; and, I was able to find employment at a local Dairy Queen. Having money gained by work bolstered my confidence as well as my savings. I grew to know that I was capable of setting my own course in life, daring to hope for attending college. A program for “first gens” at Virginia State University allowed me to fulfill this dream, although the reality of tuition, living costs, and isolation from friends and family was another hurdle I had to overcome. As an alumnus of the GEM program, I knew I could count on strength, guidance, and support from my GEM family.  Once a GEM girl, always a GEM girl is not merely a saying - it is a certainty of life.

And so I persevered, maintaining my connection with those who knew my character and worth. GEM enabled me to stiffen my spine, to clarify my purpose, and to overcome obstacles that stood in my way. GEM taught me never to give up and to pursue my dreams.  Today, I am a college graduate, working as a subcontractor with the US Coast Guard as a Linux Security Administrator in IT.    I am thankful that I found and learned a skill that I love.

I also look forward to helping others in the GEM family. I have no doubt that I will achieve whatever goal I set for myself

But it was in high school that I felt most self-realized. Becoming a member of the Girls’ Empowerment Mission (GEM) was truly a lifeline for me, allowing me to bond with peers and to gain mentors who understood a teenage girl’s need to engage in positive activities, enlightening experiences, and mindful retreats. GEM made all the difference to me, providing a lifeline of hope to me: a very grateful girl.

Through GEM I found friendship, connection, and opportunity to grow emotionally and academically; and, I was able to find employment at a local Dairy Queen. Having money gained by work bolstered my confidence as well as my savings. I grew to know that I was capable of setting my own course in life, daring to hope for attending college. A program for “first gens” at Virginia State University allowed me to fulfill this dream, although the reality of tuition, living costs, and isolation from friends and family was another hurdle I had to overcome. As an alumnus of the GEM program, I knew I could count on strength, guidance, and support from my GEM family.  Once a GEM girl, always a GEM girl is not merely a saying - it is a certainty of life.

And so I persevered, maintaining my connection with those who knew my character and worth. GEM enabled me to stiffen my spine, to clarify my purpose, and to overcome obstacles that stood in my way. GEM taught me never to give up and to pursue my dreams.  Today, I am a college graduate, working as a subcontractor with the US Coast Guard as a Linux Security Administrator in IT.    I am thankful that I found and learned a skill that I love.

 

I also look forward to helping others in the GEM family. I have no doubt that I will achieve whatever goal I set for myself

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