Gigi’s PEARLS is a Columbus woman’s way of reducing violence

Shameika Averett, founder of Gigi's PEARLS, Inc. speaks with students at Dorothy Height Elementary School on January 14, 2022 in Columbus, Georgia.  Six years after her daughter, mother and brother were murdered in a triple homicide, Averett started the nonprofit to help Columbus-area girls grow into successful women who are constructive citizens in their <a class=community – and do not tolerate violence. (Mike Haskey/Ledger-Enquirer via AP)” title=”Shameika Averett, founder of Gigi’s PEARLS, Inc. speaks with students at Dorothy Height Elementary School on January 14, 2022 in Columbus, Georgia. Six years after her daughter, mother and brother were murdered in a triple homicide, Averett started the nonprofit to help Columbus-area girls grow into successful women who are constructive citizens in their community – and do not tolerate violence. (Mike Haskey/Ledger-Enquirer via AP)” loading=”lazy”/>

Shameika Averett, founder of Gigi’s PEARLS, Inc. speaks with students at Dorothy Height Elementary School on January 14, 2022 in Columbus, Georgia. Six years after her daughter, mother and brother were murdered in a triple homicide, Averett started the nonprofit to help Columbus-area girls grow into successful women who are constructive citizens in their community – and do not tolerate violence. (Mike Haskey/Ledger-Enquirer via AP)

PA

Six years after her daughter, mother and brother were murdered in a triple homicide, Shameika Averett started a nonprofit to help Columbus-area girls become successful women who are constructive citizens in their community – and do not tolerate violence.

“I wanted to do something to bring hope and restoration to our community,” she told the Ledger-Enquirer. “A lot of us are grieving and unfortunately we had a lot of murders in our community in the last year. So starting this year off with something positive and something people can look up to was very, very, very important to me. … I reminded myself that I am not the only one in this community who is suffering, who has lost loved ones.

Averett led the first session of Gigi’s PEARLS last month at Dorothy Height Elementary School, where 22 girls in grades 3-4 began the hour-long monthly gathering for discussions and activities designed to help them to become :

Powerful,

Educated,

Accomplished,

Resilient,

Leaders in

Society.

Gigi is the nickname of his daughter, Gianna, who was 10 when she was killed with Gloria Short, 56, and Caleb, 17, at their Upatoi home. Their killers, Jervarceay Tapley, Rufus Leonard Burks IV and Raheam Daniel Gibson, were teenagers at the time of the crime.

Tapley was sentenced to life without parole. Burks received two concurrent life sentences plus 15 years. Gibson was sentenced to 30 years.

Authorities said they stole two of the family’s vehicles, several pairs of Nike sneakers, an Adidas jacket, camouflage pants, polo shirts, video games and $600 in coins.

BORN FROM A TRAGEDY

Gigi’s PEARLS is part of mourning Averett, she said. And it’s a way to keep the memory of his daughter’s life alive.

“I kept praying and asking for some type of sign that would do me good and then I would do something for this community as well, for these girls as well, and that was my way of giving back,” he said. she declared. “Sometimes in grief and sadness and depression, all the things that I know I’ve been through, sometimes those things can turn into something very beautiful.”

Averett is the Marketing Liaison for Columbus Hospice. Last summer, while talking with friend, social worker Shawna Love, Averett got the idea to start a nonprofit similar to the one Love runs for boys, Boyz 2 Men Development, in Baker Middle School and Brewer and Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary Schools.

Reaching these girls before they start attending college is critical, Averett said.

“I want to connect with girls who are laying those foundations,” she said.

They seemed to be off to a good start as LE visited their first session. With Love as her assistant, Averett asked the girls if they were leaders, and each of them raised their hands. Averett was also impressed when the girls hugged her in the middle of class at the end of the session.

“To have that at the end and say, ‘I don’t want to leave’, that really, really, really got to me,” she said. “…I was able to go back to that mothering thing because you never stop being a mother, even if you lost your child.”

CURRICULUM

The program addresses issues related to friendship, bullying, communication, in addition to academic subjects taught to students in their regular classes.

“A lot of things that their teachers are already teaching them, we’re going to kind of expose that, but we’re also going to do more life skills,” Averett said, such as “my changing body, being healthy, meditating, even some mental health things…. I want to teach them to explore and dream outside of what they see.

After the girls completed self-describing worksheets, Averett incorporated the school’s Character Word of the Month – Kindness – into the session by guiding the girls through the “I Can Be Kind” activity. kindness”. She gave each girl a sticker for each entry and told them they would receive a prize when they won five stickers.

IMPACT

Eighty-four percent of the school’s students are considered economically disadvantaged, according to the latest data from the Governor’s Office of Student Success. And “a lot” of them come from “neighbourhoods where a lot of nasty things happen,” Dorothy Height Councilwoman Mary Jo Bridges told the LE.

She was therefore delighted to see that more than half of the girls eligible for the program were enrolled.

“It’s important because of what’s going on in the community,” she says. “When you have a student who is happy, he wants to learn and he is motivated.

“Ms. Averett’s program will motivate girls and inspire girls, that there’s no limit to what they can do. They just need that push to see someone. , a young woman who has experienced the challenges and struggles she has been through, and it makes them see, ‘I can do it too.’

Averett praised Bridges and Dorothy Height principal Lamont Sheffield for hosting her and the program at the school.

“Trusting me and Miss Shawna enough is definitely, definitely a good thing,” she said.

Averett hopes this group can reduce the violence not only by helping to shape the lives of these girls, but also by empowering them to influence their relatives and male friends.

“Our girls are seeing things,” she said. “They may not like what their brother is doing, or they may not like what their uncle is doing. They are able to be more emotional and connect and may even say, “This is how I feel.” It is therefore very, very important to cover both ends of this spectrum.

Averett also plans to hold parenting workshops.

“We try to involve the whole family,” she said.

Averett noted that the people who killed her loved ones were teenagers – and one of their sisters is the person who told her mother the wrong thing she thought her brother had done.

“Sometimes women hold the key” to ending violence, Averett said. “Sometimes we don’t say it because we don’t feel powerful. We don’t feel like we have enough in us to make that decision. But I’m grateful today that this girl stood up and said, “That was wrong.”

Averett wants to expand the program to community organizations and other schools. She welcomes Facebook inquiries on her personal page or on Gigi’s PEARLS page.

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