We’re excited to present our story series featuring powerful youth advocates representing our Kindness in Community Fund recipient organizations. For this message, we’re proud to present Jalyssa, who is a member of Girls Embracing Mothers (GEM). Donate to our Kindness in Community Fund today to help us continue this impactful work.
Jalyssa always knew where to sit on the bus. She didn’t want to sit in the back with the older girls (they slept across the rows) and the middle of the bus was filled with the younger girls who reminded her of her annoying little brothers. Instead, Jalyssa and her friend Abby would sit close to the front on the almost 2.5 hour drive from Dallas to the Linda Woodman State Jail where their moms were incarcerated. Jalyssa would use that time to catch up with Abby, talking about Ariana Grande and eating snacks. It was easy; she didn’t have to explain her situation to Abby, Abby just knew. It was easy and comfortable with Abby and the other girls she met through Girls Embracing Mothers (GEM).
Before taking the trips with GEM, Jalyssa would spend long hours in the car with her Tía Janie and her younger brothers. Once they reached the prison, Jalyssa, Tía Janie and her brothers would be in a large, sterile room that made it hard to build intimacy with her mom, Angelica. Jalyssa would hang back, feeling guarded around her mom. She wasn’t sure what she could say to her mom in that room; Jalyssa felt like she was being watched her entire visit.
But on GEM trips, everything changed. The room where Jalyssa and Angelica connected was warmer, more colorful. It was a safe space to connect. But the exact moment the walls came down was because of a sock bunny they crafted together. Like many of us, Jalyssa got frustrated when she wasn’t getting something done perfectly the first time; the ears made of white ruffled socks wouldn’t stay in place. She asked for Angelica for help, and Angelica was there to provide the support Jalyssa was looking for in that moment by quickly tying the socks filled with rice to look like bunny ears.
It was one of the first moments Jalyssa had ever felt supported by her mom. After that, Jalyssa and her mom had fun, fulfilling visits with each other, building a stronger, more intimate relationship after years of being in and out of each other’s lives. Angelica lived a life of addiction before her incarceration. GEM extended kindness to Angelica by showing her how to be a mother to her kids while restoring her hope of being the sober, and responsible member of society she knew she could be.
GEM’s community works to empower young girls with mothers in prison to break the cycle of incarceration and lead successful lives with vision and purpose. Born This Way Foundation is proud to fund GEM through the Kindness in Community Fund, and support the young women with and for whom they work, just like Jalyssa.
Are you interested in helping us fund more organizations just like GEM? Donate so we can make a difference in the lives of young people like Jalyssa.
Angelica is now a Program Director at GEM and a volunteer on the very same bus that Jalyssa would take once a month to visit her. Being part of GEM showed both Angelica and Jalyssa a new way of giving. They’re building new legacies for their families, one step at a time.
Now that Jalyssa has graduated from high school, she’s giving real thought to what she wants to do with her life. Her dream job is to become an ultrasound technician because she wants to be the one who starts the relationship between parent and child with that initial glimpse into the womb. Jalyssa wants to foster that bond, just like GEM has done for her and her mother.
We can make a real difference in young people’s lives, just like Jalyssa’s with simple acts of kindness. Donate if you want to help GEM and other Kindness in Community Fund recipient organizations working creatively and innovatively to support young people.