GEMS Conference 2019 Highlights


On Saturday, March 16, 2019, 175 women and girls gathered at Walter H. Dyett High School for the Arts for the GEMS Conference 2019 under the theme, "Treasuring Myself. Treasuring My Sisters." Girls from all across the Chicagoland area came together to be stretched, discover their self worth, and create lifelong bonds of sisterhood. Through breakout sessions ranging from forgiveness to college readiness, each girl found instant ways to understand and challenge themselves emotionally and mentally. They also learned about the beauty of being unique and how to help each other unpack baggage that can prevent them from becoming the women they want to be. Professional women in fields including make-up artists, entrepreneurs, and professors volunteered their time to impart lasting and influential knowledge on the young ladies in attendance. Thank you to our amazing presenters: Nicole Caley, Tanya Davis, Marilyn Gilbert-Mitchell, Katrese Kirk, Marchonda Sanders, Sabrina Shine, and Rhonda Travis.

An exhibition exposed the girls to different organizations and opportunities that offer support, services, and programs that cater to their needs for growth into adulthood. Boys and Girls Club, Build, Kindgom Avenue, Luster’s Pink, Metropolitan Family Services, St. Sabina, and Teen Living Program hosted tables and informed the girls of opportunities to leverage their personal social media brand for profit, enroll in a summer program, and obtain resources to aid them in both challenging and life-changing aspects of life.

As the girls came together after their breakout sessions, Nafessa Toney sent the girls off with words of encouragement fueled by determination and vast expectations for their future. She emphasized that no matter where your background is or what may have happened in the past, you can move forward to better yourself and those around you. The event culminated with a southside, westside, northside dance-off, as the girls tried to prove which side was the best side. They took great pride in representing their neighborhoods and even more pride in being surrounded by positive female role models. The dance competition was followed by a fashion show, where 5 lucky girls had the opportunity to walk the red carpet and show off their head to toe makeover. Thank you to our many sponsors who helped make this event possible: The ARK of St. Sabina; The University of Chicago; A Purpose by Design; Ulta Beauty; That Special Touch Events; Luster’s Pink; Giordano’s; Girls Like Me; Target of Bedford Park, Oak Lawn, and Hodgkins; JC Penney of Valparaiso, IN; Essential Love Natural Skin Care; Jet’aime’s Boutique; Glorious N Happy; and many others.

This was definitely an event to remember. If you missed it, check out a few photos that capture some of the special moments that took place at the conference.  



  • Sisters to Scholars

    • High school’s coming to an end. Are you ready? What are your plans post-graduation? College may seem scary, but with proper preparation, you’ll be ready! From college applications to scholarships to strategies for success, we’ve got you covered!

  • Eye Am Different

    • Every girl has been created with unique features, talents and skills. So often we cannot see our beauty because we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. This workshop will use the eye, which has often been described as the gateway to the soul, the essence of who you truly are to help girls examine their own individuality, while celebrating their sisters’ uniqueness. Participants will identify their eye shape, and learn makeup tips and techniques customized just for her!

  • Stress Management 101

    • Overwhelmed. Tired. Overloaded. Girl! Are you stressed? there are many easy and healthy ways of dealing with stress. Attend this session for practical solutions to overcome those daily stresses that get in the way of living your best life.

  • Loving Me as Me

    • You are beautiful. You are loved. You are special. Do you believe that? Whether you do or don’t, it is the truth. No one is here by accident. Even in imperfections, there is so much to love.

  • Freedom to Forgive

    • You’ve been through a lot. Life’s taken its toll. Someone’s hurt you, and you can’t see how you can ever move on. Forgiveness seems miles away. Or does it? Forgiveness is more for you than those who’ve hurt you. Forgiveness frees you to pursue a fruitful future. Through personal stories and discussion, this session seeks to help you open you heart as you unlock the freedom to forgive.

  • Unpacking Your Baggage

    • How many of you are carrying around a HUGE suitcase of past pain, past mistakes, past failures and a whole lot of other pasts that hinder you from planning a bright future? Come and see how you can unpack your baggage and plan a vacation of a lifetime. Bon Voyage!!

  • Stories of My Sister

    • Putting pen to paper is a unique form of release that many turn to in hard times. Do you have a story to tell? Are you holding onto feelings that need to be released? This session offers tools to help you write your story without fear of judgment or publicity. You do not have to share your story. We will only help you learn to express how you feel through writing.

  • Love Shouldn’t Hurt

    • Every person deserves a healthy relationship free from fear and intimidation. This session, led in conjunction with Metropolitan Family Services, will educate girls on the realities of domestic violence. This is a REQUIRED session for all participants to attend.

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