As the need grows to help vulnerable youth, so too have the resources at an ambitious Kent nonprofit mentoring program.
GEM (Glover Empower Mentoring) – a community based organization that supports youth and young adults in the area – has a larger, more centralized and convenient home.
City and community leaders, the Kent Chamber of Commerce and families joined the GEM team on Feb. 28 to embrace its new center, at 827 N. Central Ave., Suite B-109, for a ribbon cutting and grand opening ceremony.
GEM opened its new doors in December, but Kendrick Glover, the organization’s co-founder and executive director, wanted to officially celebrate the move in February, Black History Month.
“We saw a need in the community and we addressed it,” said Glover, a former counselor at Kent-Meridian High School who overcame a troubled life as a teen to find a way to reach out and help others. “We’ve been an all-volunteer program for three years. … It was hard work and dedication that brought us to this point.”
A flow of donations and multiple grants, particularly those from King County, helped financially support the move. GEM humbly began in 2014, holding sessions at the Kent Parks Community Center.
Since then, the reach has expanded. GEM programs serve about 250 clients – boys and girls, young men and women, ages 10-24 – year round.
Working together with city, county and other community organizations, GEM provides mentoring (one-on-one, group, in-school and after-school), academic tutoring and life skills, and a diversion program that works to keep youth out the criminal justice system.
Its mission is to inform, interact and inspire young adults. Its foundation is education.
“The issues we deal with on a daily basis are not new to the Kent community, these issues are landscaped across the nation,” Glover said. “We are addressing them in a unique approach. … My team who is working with these young people reflect the community they are serving.”
One of Glover’s team leaders is Mike Jones, who began as a volunteer and now manages cases in GEM’s diversion program. Jones likes the new home, allowing better access to programs, services and other possibilities under one roof.
“We’re going to bring in more youth. We’re going to need more space and we’re going to need more support,” he said, “and this is what it’s all about.”
Glover said the new center offers separate rooms for programs. Plans include making space available for a music studio.
Mayor Dana Ralph likes what she sees in the organization’s efforts to better youth and the community in which they live.
“The work that you are doing with our kids is what sets the tone for the city and all of its future,” Ralph told the gathering. “Everything that happens today is what’s going to matter five years from now, 10 years from now, and making sure our kids have everything they need to be successful.
“It’s all our jobs. It’s a partnership. I am so excited to find ways we can work together.”
Jashaun Brown, 12, enjoys being a part of it. He said he felt like he was part of a family after taking in GEM’s summer programming.
“I’ve made friends,” he said. “Here, you learn a lot of good things about life, how to take care of yourself and how to become a leader. … You learn how to advocate for yourself and how to advocate for others.”
To learn more, visit gempowermentor.org.