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 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, leadership training, and Life Coaching for the community and offers opportunities for young people to grow and experience success in leadership.

We provide  mental health education, and moral/ethical development in order to encourage healthy living for youth, families and communities.

No matter how they play with us, participants discover more of who they are, connect with like-minded positive peers and adults, and have tools to create a life 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.

Edward R. Murrow

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