What We Do

Gena Jefferson, LCSW
Founder of JAIA YOUth

“I know how important it was to me, as a teenager, to have an adult who took the time to listen and to help me believe in myself. Adolescence/young adulthood is a very challenging time and parents, as well as youth, need other adults to help fill in the gaps… I want every young person to realize that his/her thoughts, feelings, actions and mere presence make a difference in this world, and that all things are possible from where they stand, just as they are!”

JAIA teaches self- acceptance which leads to self- mastery.

JAIA fosters self-mastery, mindfulness, creative expression and leadership. The curriculum supports youth by promoting healthy values, attitudes and beliefs for self- development.

JAIA facilitates workshops in mindfulness, mental health literacy, personal development, and offers leadership training, and Life Coaching for the community. JAIA is a place where we co-create with youth and provide opportunities for young people to heal, grow and create community change with their unique voices. After 21 youth get further coaching in personal, spiritual and career development if they choose.

JAIA is intentional about creating a safe and brave space for Black, Indigenious and YOUth of Color, YOUth of Immigrant families, and LGBTQIA+ YOUth ages 16-21 (and JAIA Alum up to age 24) and their allies. No matter how they play with us, participants discover their passion and unique identity, connect with like-minded positive peers and adults, and have tools to create a healing path and expanded vision of their choosing.

History of “JAIA” Just As I Am

While serving the NYC Public School system as a Teacher, District Liaison and Social Worker for 22 years, Gena realized that the schools needed support in creating safe spaces for youth to experience social emotional learning. From the lens of an educator, interfaith minister and social worker it was a clear necessity to help youth attain a sense of purpose and a deeper understanding of their own path. JAIA was home grown in East New York, Brooklyn where meetings took place in Gena’s home. Our first workshop series, Life Lessons, was facilitated in 2011 in the Bronx, East Harlem and in Brooklyn bringing Mindfulness and SEL to workforce development, SYEP (Summer Youth Employment) programs and teen conferences, serving 100 students in the first year.

As our work and partnerships successfully expanded, JAIA established itself as a non-profit 501 (3) in 2014.

Some of our early partners included the Brooklyn Public Library, the Brooklyn Pride Center, Medgar Evers College, Madiba Preparatory School, and Edward R. Murrow H.S.


Project Dream. Own. Tell (DOT)

JAIA partnered with Project DOT, a youth program at the NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault for 3 years. Our JAIA Leadership Council learned their teen dating violence prevention curriculum and decided that as a community mobilization project they wanted to outreach to adult in the black community and open lines of communication regarding sex and dating.  After conducting focus groups, our JAIAnts created an Adult Engagement Training for the Alliance that was later evaluated and proven for its feasibility to do well in the community by research department at the Rutgers University Violence Against Women Center.

NYC Public Schools

Since 2015 JAIA has had the pleasure of collaborating with Murrow’s Student Government and Health Ed Dept in order to bring our youth led personal development series to their student body. We also facilitate workshops in their annual student conferences.

To partner with us, please email us at jaiayouth@gmail.com

Our programs are funded by the everyday community members, as well as, the Kataly Foundation‘s Mindfulness & Healing Justice Fund, The Pinkerton Foundation, and The Fetzer Institute’s K-12 Educational fund, and NYC District Council 46 Council Member Mercedes Narcisse.

We are grateful for your dedication to creating healthier and healing communities led by conscious youth leaders!

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