We don’t have to say much here. Amanda Ebokosia speaks for herself! Amanda is a 25 year-old dynamic leader, leading the charge of an amazing non-profit in Newark, New Jersey. She won’t tell you but she’s also a grad student studying biomedical sciences. She just blows us away! Don’t believe us? Read her story…
At 19, I found myself with a new understanding about life and how fragile it could be. My mother, my rock and my best friend, was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. It was devastating news. I remember receiving the phone call from my mom. She described it as “nothing serious, a small lump”. She masked the severity of her diagnosis with a strong familiar voice, but I could not escape the reality– this was just happening. My mother was diagnosed with a disease that could take her life.
This reality led to a pursuit of self-awareness. It also led me to research how cancer affected my peers. I then wanted to create a project that would inform youth about issues that affected them and their communities. I did not want to create a breast cancer organization, but rather a project that would serve to bring to light youth affairs, through a series of educational enrichment programs and activities.
What started as a therapeutic outlet to help me cope with my mother’s disease turned into passion- a passion to teach and bring awareness to my community. On March 25, 2006, the TheGemProject was born.
The first issue we addressed was breast cancer and how it affects youth and young adults. We chose to bring awareness to this cause in a different way. We did it with a traveling photo exhibit. The exhibit circulated as a ‘traveling awareness exhibit’ at participating academic institutions. The first universities to feature the showcase were the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers University – Newark Campus. Traveling photo exhibits would become our signature awareness campaign and today our most recent exhibit explores the wide spectrum of beauty in our “DefineRealBeautyCampaign.”
Our breast cancer campaign planted a seed for us to grow by leaps and bounds. Since then we’ve instituted multiple projects that enforce leadership and community organizing–while simultaneously educating our youth and young adults. We’ve chanted together through our campus awareness marches, held debates and public speaking workshops through our interactive literacy programs, and built awareness quilts with our autism quilt programs.
How do we do it?
We do it with a committed team and a whole lot of passion. Passion must be found first through an organization’s founder before it can be illustrated to others. You must believe in what you’re doing. It’s your actions that people remember. It’s your actions that will lay your organization’s foundation and purpose. Your supporters then follow your vision and see room for growth. They challenge you. They help shape your leadership for the better. In the end, this project (your project) belongs to everyone.
Interested in starting a not-for-profit? Follow the following steps, (here).
Amanda’s tips for Founders:
- Stay focused on your vision: Take criticism. Never settle for mediocrity, always aim to be better.
- Learn about the field that you’re most passionate about. A competent leader is a capable leader.
- Set your priorities: Increase your productive time. There is ample time out there to do what you love.
- Invest in smart people: Structure a team whose skill parallels or exceeds your own.
- Speak up: Communication is key. Be clear as glass and be transparent. State the obvious always. What’s obvious to you, may not be obvious to others.
- Bury Assumptions: Assuming the wrong thing will lead to a lack of professionalism in the future.
- Invest in yourself: Read, visit seminars, get a mentor, and ask questions.
- Be in a positive bubble: Starting anything is bold and not easy. You don’t need to be surrounded by those who will hinder your performance, life, and work.
- Be humble and gracious: Bad personalities can spoil a brand. Be polite and always be humble.
Amanda A. Ebokosia is a freelance writer and the founder of The Gem Project, Inc. Since its inception, the Gem Project has held over 30+ programs and has directly educated 900+ persons. Through partnerships, program distributions, and hosting at Colleges, Universities and Secondary schools, the Gem Project has affected thousands of lives. The Gem Project has been featured in: HelloGiggles, The White House Blog (Young Americans), The Star Ledger, Newark Live, Yahoo Voices, and numerous other publications. Visit them at The Gem Project Like them on Facebook Follow them on Twitter Pin them on Pinterest