At JAIA YOUth Empowerment, our mission is to provide 16 to 21-year-olds with life-changing mindfulness skills to express their emotions, restore their mental health, and co-create healthier communities. To empower more Youth, we have started our Light, Love, Lead season of giving—Light the way forward for Youth to grow in self-esteem, Love on them by securing safe spaces for Youth to heal, and Lead Youth into a promising future. In this “Light, Love, Lead” article series, we’re highlighting the stories of our Youth and alumni, learning about their journey, time at JAIA, and how they became our inspirational JAIAnts.
Joe-Ann Finds a Home at JAIA
When Joe-Ann Mathias first joined JAIA back in 2016, she instantly knew she had found a special place to call home. “As soon as you walk into a JAIA meeting, you feel the positive energy and your subconscious immediately feels safe,” says Mathias. “On my first day, I clearly remember holding hands with Sally Hipscher, a JAIA Consultant, saying the JAIA mantra (I Am Worthy and I Am Powerful), and her turning to me and saying, ‘It’s ok to be sensitive’. In that small moment, I knew I was supposed to be there.”
Soon after, Mathias had the opportunity to go on a JAIA retreat, which marked a turning point for her. “The trip was a chance to unpack childhood triggers and create a new narrative for our lives. We were able to look past the labels society places on us and see ourselves in a different light,” she says. “I really believe that’s when my healing journey began because I was able to release a lot of my insecurities.” The retreat also offered Mathias an opportunity to help her peers and fellow JAIAnts, “I learned how to be a proper support system and ask how I can show up for people in the way that they really need me,” Mathias says, adding why the retreat cemented the familial unit. ‘This retreat gave us the time to discuss our problems, support one another, cook, laugh, and just enjoy the time together.”
Now at 26, Mathias was able to transfer the skills she learned at JAIA for her job as a Youth Educator at the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault. “JAIA gave me the toolkit to overcome my crippling anxiety,” she says. “At my job, I get to pass that knowledge to others and teach them to love themselves, to show up for themselves, and move with integrity and intention.”
As Mathias looks back at her time as a “JAIAnt”, there is only one word that comes to mind: magical. “I like to think of JAIA as Hogwarts. The bonds you make, the positive energy, and the way JAIA teaches you to embrace your emotions and spirituality, almost feels like a spell from Harry Potter—it’s truly a magical experience,” she says, adding one final reflection. “I look back at 2016 and think of how lucky I am to have found JAIA. They’re my friends, family, and my heart. Simply put, JAIA is home.”
Learn more about Joe-Ann…
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