Meet The Gem Project Fellow Awardee: $1,000.00 to Asada Rashidi from Bard High School Early College Graduate, in partnership with NCOS!

Asada Rashidi
Image: Newark Public Schools Website

Newark, NJ – On August 10, 2018, The Gem Project, Inc.  announced their inaugural Gem Project Fellows award recipient of $1,000.00, which was to be given this year to any graduating high school student or current college student who exemplified what it means to lead a life of service, while maintaining scholarly excellence.

On the forefront of social change, The Gem Project awards candidates who are passionate about public service, social justice and equity. Preference is given to those who have plans to continue service beyond graduation working in (but not limited) to fields like social work, public service, education, youth development, and criminal justice.

Asada Rashidi,17, is a graduate of Bard Early College High School and entering  Spelman College as a second semester sophomore this year. Ranking #5 of her graduating class, Rashidi has left a lasting impression on the City of Newark, which extends beyond her scholarly achievements. Volunteering at local hospitals as early as age 14, Rashidi grew a passion to better understand issues within her community, while simultaneously getting involved in direct service work. Soon after that she worked alongside Commercial District Services to learn about the economic issues, which plagued her town. Rashidi was often seen cleaning the streets, while encouraging her peers to get involved and do the same. Through a religious-based organization Muslim Teens Connect where Rashidi is a member, she has continued to immerse herself in service from providing assistance to the homeless and organizing community clean-ups in her neighborhood.

Our interim Board Chair Mr. Hicks had the following comments to say regarding Asada Rashidi’s application, “Overall, I am very impressed with Asada’s essay. She demonstrates clear examples of community service and the role she has played toward advancing her goals. It’s clear she has what it takes to be a very strong leader. ” Our Board secretary Ms. Spann noted, “Asada is committed to excellence in her academics, whose investment in her community’s economic, social, and spiritual well-being is evident in her extracurricular activities and academic pursuits. I find her level of maturity and discipline admirable.”

We could not be more proud of Asada Rashidi and wish her continued success as she embarks on a new journey at Spelman College!

The Gem Project is an ArtStart 2018 Grant Recipient

The Gem Project is a proud 2018-2019 ArtStart grant recipient provided by The Newark Arts Council, a 37 year-old not-for-profit organization that strives to provide resources and opportunities for arts and cultural organizations, throughout the City of Newark. The Gem Project will continue to pilot our service-learning initiatives that take on a social-justice approach, with college fellows working alongside high school students. This October, we will welcome 30 high school students, 2 art educators, and college fellows to work on an art activism project. It will take place within Express Newark at Paul Robeson Art Galleries.

Short description:

“The Gem Project: Will help youth and young adults learn about Art Activism, while having the opportunity to study activist artists who focus on social issues. 30 high school youth will work to spread awareness to a social issue with a call to action by visual artwork. Youth will also provide their own recommendations to a related policy, while showcasing their own visual art renditions of past/current activist artists’ artwork.”

The ArtStart is funded by Prudential Foundation, M&T Bank, Bank of America, Turrell Fund, New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

We join 18 other not-for-profit organizations, who are also funded this year and were awarded by The Newark Arts Council. Since ArtsStart’s inception in 2001, Newark Arts Council has distributed over 150 grants, which total over $400,000.

On behalf of everyone at The Gem Project, we are grateful for this opportunity to extend programming as well as the great partnerships it will bring. More details will be provided later in September.

Our Gem Project Fellows Earned: 40 Hours of Dedicated Training Across 7 weeks

Gem Project fellow reviews lesson a week before, during training training sessions.

For the past 6 weeks Diamond A., age 17, and Leilani D., age 22,  our Gem Project fellows, fulfilled 24+ hours of dedicated training, which does not include the 16 hours of career readiness and “next steps” session they earned during week 7 where they gained opportunities to:

    • Resume + Cover letter: Coaching and Revisions
    • Witness culminating projects from youth-based organizations
    • Packet of local opportunities, which align with their past and new experiences
    • A Gem Project Fellow- Fall Fellowship Consideration

The resources presented outside of summer programming include,

  • Engage in mock interviews
  • Ongoing support: digital portfolios of work that displays their resume, video clips, photos, and other artifacts and evidence of their work.

Our fellows were trained but not limited to the following topics during their summer employment:

  • Facilitation,Summative Assessments, Formative Assessments, Tools of Program Evaluation,  Positive Youth Development Framework, Logic Model in Program Design, Developing Outcomes & Indicators, Trauma-informed practices, Trauma on Brain & Learning, Adverse Childhood Experiences, Motivational Interviewing, Managing Difficult Behaviors, Creating Behavioral Plans, Delivering Effective Feedback, Youth Development Stages (Early childhood to Mature Teen), Testing on Myer Briggs Personality and more.

The Gem Project fellows were funded by the City of Newark’s Summer Youth Employment Program.


Our college and high school fellows worked alongside each other to work on a service-learning project, through a social justice approach. This summer’s service project was to engage 60 campers age 6-13 about the school to prison pipeline. The school to prison pipeline is a devastating national trend that pushes certain groups of young people out of school and into the criminal justice system, due to harsh zero tolerance policies

within school.Youth of color and those with special needs are most impacted.

Our fellows worked as trained facilitators who carried out our Gem Project curriculum each week, which led to two culminating summer projects that varied by age group.

Youth between age 10-13, performed monologues that voiced the real stories of justice involved youth.

Youth between age  6-9, explored injustice, discrimination, and allyship that led to a 7 foot long art project known as the “Tree of Hope.” The Tree of Hope is a 7 foot tree that displays on the trunk the thoughts of  what community, crime, and school means from youth by colorful post-its. During a community-mapping activity, youth led discussions on the connections of all three, which over the course of a few weeks opened into a discussion and further lessons to the disturbing trend known as the school to prison pipeline.  The youth wrote their reflections on leaves, which displayed: facts, statements and definitions learned from our camp program. Our older youth (age 10-13) also joined in this building and decoration of the tree.

Overall, the program we provided over the course of 7 weeks, which includes the additional career readiness week for our fellows was a worthwhile one. We hope to continue our fellowship program this fall at Express Newark Paul Robeson Art Galleries.

In the future, we plan to partner with many high schools and colleges with this program. If you would like to support us in our journey, please consider placing a tax-deductible donation here, volunteer on a committee, or Board open seat.

There is strength in numbers.

The Gem Project at West Side Salvation Army Summer Camp 2018

Leilani & Diamond, our Gem Project Summer Fellows, at West Side Salvation Army camp.

For this summer, The Gem Project held a summer program at the West Side Salvation Army Day Camp, leading 72 hours of our fellowship program to West Side Salvation’s 270 hours of dedicated programming for youth across 6 weeks. The camp welcomed youth between age 6-13 as early as 8 in the morning and dismissed them as late as 5 PM, 5 days a week in the West Ward area of Newark, NJ. Our fellows program was Monday-Thursday at the camp site from 12:30 PM-3:30 PM.

Our theme for our camp program at West Side Salvation Army focused on shedding light to the disturbing national trend of The School to Prison Pipeline, which sees scores of youth criminalized unfairly with zero-tolerance policies that push them out of school and into the criminal justice system.

Trained weekly for 4 hours and an additional 16 hours from our career readiness programming (totaling 40 hours of training), fellows Leilani D., 22, and Diamond A., 17, worked alongside each other to facilitate workshops under the guidance of a Gem Project program leader to 60 enrolled campers.

Fellows co-lead a workshop with their all boys group, Morehouse.


The workshops did the following:

School to Prison Pipeline: Inform, hold discussions, and arrive at probable solutions regarding the injustice surrounding a growing trend known as the School to Prison pipeline. One track of youth were responsible for developing a large-scale art project, while the other track of youth recited monologues voicing stories of actual justice involved youth. The central prop of the play was a 7 foot free-standing cardboard tree called, “The Tree of Hope.” The Tree of Hope displays on the trunk of tree the thoughts of what community, crime, and school means from youth with colorful post-its. During a community-mapping activity, youth led discussions on the connections between the three, which over the course of a few weeks opened into a discussion and further lessons to the disturbing trend known as the school to prison pipeline. The youth wrote their reflections on paper leaves, which displayed: facts, statements and definitions learned from our camp program.

Community Mapping: Allowed all youth to map their ideas surrounding community, school, and crime and developed ways to distill their collective knowledge to unearth the connections each brings to engage in meaningful conversation.

Build Vocabulary: Our youth learned varying terms throughout the program, which included,. These terms were reintroduced each session as a form of play through games and during their reflection exercises.

The 7 foot tall “Tree of Hope,” which was built by our camp participants at the West Side Salvation Army camp and was a focal point of our youth’s monologue play.

Strengthened Public Speaking: All participants had opportunities to work collaboratively with one another as well as present information, thoughts, and reactions from their reflection journals. Reflection was practiced every day at the end of each session. While it was optional to share aloud of what our youth wrote, all participants engaged.

Engaged in Ongoing Reflection: At the start of sessions and at the conclusion, camp participants and fellows engaged in reflection both written and verbal. All participants were allowed to express themselves in different ways, like drawing or writing poems or essays.

Produced Work: The Tree of Hope prop and monologue from camp participants, telling the stories of justice involved youth.

In the future, we plan to partner with many high schools and colleges with this program. If you would like to support us in our journey, please consider placing a tax-deductible donation, volunteer on a committee, or Board open seat. For questions, email

Lead. Be Brazen–

  • “The world belongs to the energetic.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Lead. Be Resilent–

  • “The leadership instinct you are born with is the backbone. You develop the funny bone and the wishbone that go with it.” – Elaine Agather

Lead. Be Strong–

  • “Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential.” -Barack Obama