“Never take your passion lightly. If you’re passionate about something, don’t ever wear a leash around your heart.” – Amanda A. Ebokosia
Name: Amanda A. Ebokosia
What exactly do you do for a living?
I’m the Founder and CEO of The Gem Project, Inc. The Gem Project is a not-for-profit organization that educates youth, school-age children, and young adults about issues that are affecting them and their communities. Through the use of innovative programs and enriching activities, we’re able to hone the leadership and community organizing skills of our youth.
What state do you represent? New Jersey
Did you go to college? Where? Yes, Rutgers University – Newark Campus
What did you study there?
Biology with a minor in Psychology
Why on earth did you choose this career path and how did you get involved in it?
I choose this career path because it’s not only fulfilling and self-sustaining, it continuously provides me with the most worthwhile experiences that enhance my life for the better. I got involved in creating my own not-for-profit work during my sophomore year at Rutgers University at age 19, it was during a time after finding out my mother was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. Fortunately, she is a survivor. At this time, I wanted to create programs that were innovative enough to educate my peers– while simultaneously challenging their leadership skills by encouraging them to take action as leaders.
What are your future plans for your career?
It is our hope to have our programs and ideas modeled as a Gem Project curriculum throughout the nation. We are currently following a model to see that it happens. We would like to extend our reach in support and work efforts on a global scale. We have received a few volunteer applications internationally, so the interest is there. We’re preparing and working towards that, preparation is key in situations like these.
What are you in love with about this profession? What are you not so in love with?
I’m in love with the community work, hands on work. We honestly love our supporters. The greatest moments are when we get the opportunity to speak to the people whom we serve and establish a good relationship with them over the years. We get notes and words of encouragement daily and those are the moments that we take with us at the end of the day. These are the moments I personally love the most. There are very few things that I have to say that I’m not too in love with, since you asked. I don’t take my passion for this project lightly, all of my members are equally passionate about our project. I often say to others or to my team to believe in the project first, rather than to participate only in support of a friendship. I found that in business it provides some challenges that may be foreign initially to individuals who genuinely enjoy what they do. Like any business, as you propel yourself and reach milestones you will attract people who may not have your best interest at heart. This is the main part that I’m not in love with. You must choose your partnerships and decisions wisely. You must have faith in your team. They’re powerful, even more powerful than you if you work together properly.
Give us an example of a day in the life of you doing what you do?
There are not many typical days in this line of work. I have to say, depending on the time of the year we operate on different schedules. Most of our youth and young adult programs run alongside the academic school year between September to May. In the summer we run our seasonal programs. During the academic school year and summer, volunteers check in with work and have duties delegated in a specified time frame to accomplish them. Many of our members are project leads, people who are responsible of an entire project and program. My position is ensuring that projects follow a good timeline and meet certain check points to make sure all of our objectives are met. I have to make sure every division is working together well as a team and individually. It is also my duty to sustain a harmonious work environment and relationship with all of our supporters through various means of communication and updates to the public. During the year we run events every week and monthly fundraisers. They’re both during the week and weekends.
What steps do you recommend to someone who is planning to pursue this career?
Master this field. If you don’t have a background in business, surround yourself with books that are relevant. There is no real excuse in not excelling in this field. Your passion can propel you into new heights, if you wish to learn. Define a social problem or issue you wish to address and spend type researching about it. You want to know your area and the problems of the past and present. Set and define a clear mission statement, a statement that acts as your organization’s purpose. It has to be clear and easy to understand. Don’t be too specific or too general, find a balance. Visit http://irs.gov, they offer step-by-step guidelines and a grid of the life cycle of both public charities and private foundations. They break it down in stages for you, suggest timing, and provide information and numbers to call for help, according to the state that you’re in. My other advice is to expand your network. Go out and find people who believe in the very thing that you’re most passionate about. Venture out to networking socials or other community functions to build your team. You cannot do this work alone, even if you had your very own red cape. Get some interns too at http://internweb.com.
What is the single-most important piece of advice you can offer a person pursuing this career?
Be passionate at what you wish to do. I cannot tell you the times when I found myself up at 4 AM to write an e-mail or get a head start on my day. In fact, my day consistently starts at 5 AM no matter what I’m doing. Your passion will be tested at several points throughout your pursuit with this career. It’s not for the weak at heart. You have to eat, breathe, and love your project. A good project is one that not only captivates you but is able to draw the attention and support of others. Support is only generated when others have faith in your vision, having faith in your vision is being able to see the passion–through your work, talks, and actions. A leader who is passionate about something will stop at nothing see their vision. This is the type of leader that people will invest their faith in.
What is the best piece of advice you have received?
Focus, just focus. Remove all distractions.
What can we look forward to seeing from you next?
Personally, doing more speaking engagements to empower young children and adults. As an organization, becoming more solid and expanding our programs national-global scale. 10-15 years from now, I expect there will be centers devoted in fulfilling our mission. I do plan on incorporating my background in the sciences in the future. I’m currently a graduate student at UMDNJ, taking courses in the school of biomedical sciences. I have plans of furthering my education and obtaining a doctorate in the future.
What professional or community volunteer organizations are you currently a member of?
Psi Chi Honor Society & The White House Project- NY GO RUN 2010
What’s a funny or significant memory from your college or high school days you are legally allowed to share? One of the most significant moments in memory I can think of has to be traced around my junior year at high school. I was in a living room with two of my best friends talking about life, world events, situations, and the future. I would love to take a step back and listen to that conversation again. I knew that we all spoke highly about changing our world, physically changing it and creating some sort of movement. We wanted to change the state of thinking. We were stuck in a different time but wanted so much to be done at that particular moment. It was so empowering at the time–lounging around in my best friend’s living room–talking about our “What If’s”–being excited for what the future had for us all. I was just coming “out” of my shell. I was very shy in high school but overly ambitious when it came to community service work, student groups, and track. If I was ever nominated for anything, I was more likely to choose a lower position than to ever think about being a president. I remember one of the advisers of Key Club and Library Council at the time tried to encourage me to run for a position– I honestly think I shied away.
What book are you reading right now?
One of my team members, Parul Punjani, gave me– The Leadership Challenge, written by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner. Finding time to finish reading that is on the top of my list. It’s a great book thus far, I’m certain my leadership style will be enhanced by it. My living room is like a library, I have a few books I have yet to read here. The next book I started and will likely finish after I have read The Leadership Challenge is Basic Black, written by Cathie Black. I would like to meet Cathie Black one day. There was a story she highlighted in her book that truly had me questioning my own ambition. Most of the books I have read usually fall in Self-improvement, Business management & Communication, Science and even Psychology. I have the Pooh Complex and Freud’s Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis stashed away somewhere . I am a fan of books written by Robert Greene, I love the way he researches and incorporates history in exploring the art of war, seduction, and power. A book that inspired me in becoming a life long educator was Mitch Albom’s, Tuesdays With Morrie.
What’s playing in your MP3 player right now? Honestly–Beyonce’s album, 4. I’m more than a fan. I love her work ethic even more than her music at times. I also play Goapele’s “Closer” for motivation and inspiration, I have it on repeat at all times.
Where can we stalk you online?
Facebook Fanpage or Facebook