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Success Story: It’s Why We Do What We Do


One of Arbor Dog Foundation’s partner organizations is Girls’ Empowerment Mission (GEM) – a Living Classrooms program that empowers high school girls by providing opportunities and growth experiences that will enable them to become independent, self-sufficient, and confident young women.


Ninth grade girls are nominated by school faculty for demonstration of motivation and/or potential to participate in the three-year college preparatory curriculum that includes; after school meetings twice a month from 2:30-7:30 pm, activities, speakers, and field trips related to their curriculum. The group also has six overnight weekend retreats per year at a variety of locations. Girls are also encouraged to self-nominate and are selected based on their motivation to reach their fullest potential and their interest in the program.


“The sisterhood that happens is such a beautiful outcome, one that I never even intended. Their struggles may be different, but the girls can all relate to having adversity in their life. Supporting each other through that is an incredible bonding experience.” - Founder, Debbi Weinberg

After 19 years, GEM has a lot of success stories to tell. Participants are nearly two times as likely to attend college than their peers. They also gain confidence and lifelong friendships are formed. Joanna is just one of those success stories.


“I always felt lonely as a child, I guess because I spent a lot of my early years losing things – people, homes, stability.


But that all changed when I found GEM… GEM helped me make new friends, explore new places, and learn about a bigger world than the one I was used to. It gave me a sense of belonging and security that I had been missing for so long. I made my best friend in GEM, one who still holds that role today. GEM made me think differently and become more open-minded because I got to meet people with different points of view and life experiences.


GEM gave me stability for the first time in my life and set me up for future success. After high school, I went to Chowan University for two years, thanks in part to a scholarship from GEM. Then I transferred and graduated from Morgan State University. I currently work in Human Resources as a HR Analyst. I met my boyfriend at Chowan University, and we have two awesome kids. Once I graduated from GEM, it was important for me to stay involved through participation in the GEM2 programs and alumni events. I am proud to still be connected with this program that meant so much to me.


I thank GEM for providing a stable family for me when I didn’t have one of my own, and for helping me develop the self-confidence to work through challenging issues like this.”


Arbor Dog Foundation continues to support GEM through regular donation. If education and furthering the lives of underserved young women in Baltimore is something you would like to support, consider making a designated donation here.




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