Do What You Love: A Personal Narrative

“We look up to you as our teachers and our leaders,

How are we supposed to achieve success?

If the person that is supposed to be our biggest fan is never in the bleachers?

It’s like chasing a dream with the coach that has no faith in the team….

Ask them [your children] what their dream is, how and what we [the parents],

Not they, we can do to achieve it.

You’re children are your biggest asset,

So invest time in speaking,

And invest time in listening,

Invest time in hearing,

Invest time….

We [the young people] just want you [the parents] to believe in us.

Because the family is the strongest corporation that you can have!”


Suli Breaks, an up and coming spoken word artist from London is a recent college graduate. His quote from his video called “Parents are the Hardest to Please,” reminded me about a discussion we had at our last Gem Project meeting. Some of the Leads and I talked about our majors, career paths, and the struggles that come along with being in college. One of the Leads admitted that she had changed her major multiple times until she found one she was satisfied with. She then expressed that she did not get as much support from her parents because she chooses to focus on the Humanities as opposed to Law, medicine or business.

Regardless, she feels that she made the right decision and that her parents will see her vision in due time. I tend to see that some young people are going to college for their parents instead of themselves (especially children of immigrants). I learned that it is perfectly fine to take parents’ advice (especially if they have gone to school) but ultimately it is crucial to go to college for yourself. Although there may be financial obstacles that might inhibit young people to go after their dreams such as the economy and being dependent on parents (if they are paying/helping to paying for your tuition).

I once was told by a teacher in high school that I should make sure I go to school for what I want to do and not for what anyone else wants. She expressed that if I didn’t I would end up resenting whomever and this included my parents. At first, I thought that I would be disrespecting my parents if I didn’t do as I was told. I was always told to respect my elders, but at the end of the day whatever career path I choose is the one I am going to have to live with and not my parents.

At the age of 18, majority of young people do not have their lives figured out and that’s okay. These are the years for self-discovery. Like for instance, medical school sure sounds rewarding when you get that paycheck at the end of it all, however the road bumps, detours, potholes, traffic jams, and accidents are not often discussed when getting to that end result. That is why it is important to do your research and see if what you are good at can give you a sustained career, if not create one. If you have a plan and present it to your parents they have no choice but to be that coach that helps you make it to the playoffs and eventually the championships. They can be the hardest to please but when they see that you are taking the road less traveled such as art careers, and seeing that drive and passion behind it, it will be the most rewarding thing ever for them to witness. Do what you love.

Nonie Okoye serves as a Contributor Lead at The Gem Project, Inc. Okoye is a Rutgers University student studying biology and the arts. She resides in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter at @LoveGemNonye.

Edited by Deja Jones, M.Ed, Director of Communications. Follow her on Twitter @Simply_Dej.

Category: Uncategorized · Tags:

An Orientation of Leaders

To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect coming to my first on-boarding orientation for The Gem Project nonprofit organization on Saturday, March 1st. I arrived at the North End Branch of the Newark Public Library and settled in at a waiting area with three other young women who were also waiting for the founder of the program, Amanda, and two directors, Parul and Deja, to set up the conference room. From an outsider’s perspective, the four of us looked as if we would have nothing in common except the fact that we are all Rutgers- Newark students. After our initial introductions, a random conversation about world music sparked between us. We began to exchange the names of different artists we enjoyed as well as favorite music genres. By the time we were ushered to the conference room, I was already at ease with the group of people I would be working with.

The nervous jitters I had (the kind that one gets when one is about to start something new and different) slowly disappeared as I took my seat at the conference table and was introduced to Parul and Deja. I observed how the three ladies chatted enthusiastically, how they easily laughed with each other, and were as comfortable as if this were a reunion of old friends and not an orientation with new members. Each possessed the kind of spunk that one has when one is in their mid-to-late 20’s while also giving off an air of wisdom. I still didn’t know what to make of the program. With the exception of Deja, Amanda and Parul have been involved with the project since its infancy in 2008. I wondered, what is the level of passion for such a program that would keep it running with the same members for so many years?

As the question echoed through my mind, I almost didn’t notice the young girl seated quietly at the table with us.

“I’m going to let Briana introduce herself and tell her story,” said Amanda.

The young girl, while seated in her chair, beamed and said,” Hi, my name is Briana and I have been with the Gem Project for four years.”

This was the introduction to her story, from being a shy child to an articulate student who was greatly influenced by the interactive literacy program that enhanced her reading abilities and gave her a voice. This was my moment of realization. The word that echoed my mind was eccentricity.


Out of all the words I could have used to describe our group, why choose a word that tends to have a negative connotation? It is the word one would politely use for a “weirdo” but this time around, it is for a different kind of weirdo. It is the word for trailblazers; for those who see the importance of our youth and the future and find a need to set an example for others while lending a helping hand.

Amanda, eyes gleaming with tears, said, “And that’s what this is all about.” She paused, then laughed. “Yes, we ride or die!”

Arlene Hernandez serves as a Contributor Lead and Social Media Lead at The Gem Project, Inc. Hernandez is in her final year at Rutgers University studying English. She resides in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter at @ArleneH1991.

Edited by Deja Jones, M.ED, Director of Communications. Follow her on Twitter at @Simply_Dej.


According to the New York Times, the forever dreaded SAT test has finally been revamped! These changes are set to take permanent effect within the next two years. The College Board determined that the SAT needed to undergo major revisions in order to accommodate this new generation of young people going into four-year colleges and universities. It was apparent to test developers that the achievement gap was too wide and that socioeconomic factors were mostly to blame.

The College Board has come to a very valid realization because a specific town or city will be more advantageous than another but it also depends on the high school that the student comes from. For example, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute from the Baltimore City school district is an exceptional school despite being associated with Baltimore City (which is known for its high level of criminal activity). Statistics and data show that students are more likely to perform better at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute than other schools that are not based on science, math, or engineering like Baltimore Institute.  I noticed in areas where there are more minorities, there is also less access to more modern technologies, which introduces the ever growing digital divide in many urban cities across the country. Many newer schools are equipped with modern technologies such as Apple products, tablets and 21st Century learning labs whereas older more seasoned schools have outdated PCs or Windows software.

The most recent change that the SAT had undergone was in the year 2005 when the score format was shifted from 1600 to 2400. An essay portion was also added. The 2400 score maximum remains the same but the composition gets a make-over. There will be three sections: evidenced based reading, writing, and math, and an OPTIONAL essay. Incorrect answers will no longer be counted against the student, vocabulary words and math problems will be more simplified. The simplified sections will require more problem-solving, analytical, and critical thinking skills.

The College Board believes that some students are better at taking tests than others. This is because some students have mastered the art of taking a standardized test. They may not necessarily be “book-smart”, but they have figured out how to get the right answers in a short amount of time. Some students might take more time to solve problems but may know all the answers and students may suffer from test anxiety. These many changes makes one wonder how different the college admission process would have been for me just a couple years ago. Would I be at a different, more prestigious school? Could I have gotten a higher score on the SAT? Would it have even made a difference at all?

Nonie Okoye serves as a Contributor Lead at The Gem Project, Inc. Okoye is a Rutgers University student studying biology and the arts. She resides in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter at @LoveGemNonye.

Edited by Deja Jones, M.ED, Director of Communications. Follow her on Twitter @Simply_Dej.

Category: Uncategorized · Tags:

The Gem Project Becomes a Power Partner with The Activate Conference!

Since inception, The Gem Project has implemented and encouraged programs that supported personal development, leadership and education. These elements are what our organization was founded on.
It is with great excitement that we were called on by our friend and supporter,Lucinda Cross, best-selling author of The Road to Redemption and Corporate Mom Drop Outs.
Cross participated in this year’s Mini Writers’ Summit. The Gem Project is on board to support her Activate Conferencea leadership driven and how to get-it-done type of conference. We feel our young adult and mature adult supporters will appreciate this.
Here are the benefits you’ll get, since we’ve become their latest power partner:

1. Ticket Giveaways! We’re giving away TWO free tickets to this years conference. Find out next             week about how to receive them.
2. $100 dollars off tickets and access to the entire conference by using our promo code: thegem
3. Access to over 12 sought-after national to international speakers and high impact leaders, after

On Friday, September 20, 2013, the Activate Conference will be held at the de Seversky Mansion. See the line-up below, and read about them. As The Gem Project plans against our fall programs and 2014, we will be sharing with you more exciting events we’re participating in.

Well wishes,

Amanda A. Ebokosia
Founder & CEO
The Gem Project, Inc.
See the speakers below, and read about them here:

Internship Chronicles: (Meet Bunmi)- Designed a project using photoshop!

Each week The Gem Project staff allows interns to document their experiences about what they’ve learned throughout their volunteer experience. We have chosen to share their work with our organization with you. It gives you, our supporters, an opportunity to see what we’re working on weekly.               Meet Bunmi, see what she says here:“When I think of an internship I think of some young person assigned trivial tasks, such as fetching coffee and stapling a 1,001 copies, just so the intern can build a professional relationship in their respected career, but this has been far from my experience interning at the Gem Project.

To be an intern at the Gem Project means you are going to community BBQ’s hosted at the Newark’s Teachers Union by The Coalition of Effective Newark Public Schools— to hear community leaders speak about education.

Senator Ronald L. Rice

Interning with the Gem Project means you are going to New York to go kayaking in the Hudson river, and eating at a sleek restaurant called the Sea, directly below the train tracks of Highline Park.

I have designed a t-shirt logo for Councilmen Sharif’s Youth Ambassador Program, an opportunity that a professional would probably get paid to do, but I was afforded this opportunity because of the connections that exist at the Gem Project. My final design wasn’t selected but I learned a great deal from it.
Here was my submission below:
The Gem project Internship thus far for me has been more than I could have ever imagined. I am discovering passions and building on skills that, I know will be necessary for me in the future.

Before the Gem Project I barely knew how to use Photoshop, and then I was assigned a task to create a T-shirt Logo for  Newark’s Councilman, Councilman Sharif. I had to build on the little skills I knew on Photoshop, and teach myself how to create a presentable t-shirt design in a short amount of time, on a program I was not familiar with.

Next I went to a community BBQ in Newark hosted by the Coalition of Effective Newark Public Schools.

I heard a young high school student speak about how his school was going to be closing down in the near future, and how important it is to keep schools open.

Watching that young boy speak about such a tragic event, opened my eyes to the importance of education, and creating schools that do not fail our students.

Next, I went kayaking with Amanda on the Hudson river! Who would not love to do something like that and call it work?  I ate at an aroma filled Thai restaurant for the first time and walked through an abandoned train track, which now was transformed by designers into a scenic industrial garden. It  overlooked the beautiful skyline of the city.

My experience at Gem Project has been more than just an internship, it has been a blessing. Thus far I have done some amazing things with the Gem Project, and I truly cannot wait until I  fulfill my next task, because I know it will be an experience to remember.


Adebunmi Gbadebo
Creative Development and Marketing Intern
The Gem Project, Inc.

Bunmi currently works in our marketing & creative development division! She is a student at TheSchool of Visual Arts!

Category: Uncategorized · Tags:

Lead. Be Brazen–

  • “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 Resilent–

  • “Leaders are people who do the right thing; managers are people who do things right.” – Warren G. Bennis

Lead. Be Strong–

  • “What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.” – Kurt Vonnegut