Gigi’s PEARLS Is Columbus Woman’s Way of Reducing Violence

By MARK RICE, Ledger-Enquirer

COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) — Six years after her daughter, mom and brother had been murdered in a triple murder, Shameika Averett has created a nonprofit group to assist Columbus space ladies turn into profitable girls who’re constructive residents of their group — and don’t tolerate violence.

“I wished to do one thing to convey hope and a few restoration again to our group,” she informed the Ledger-Enquirer. “Lots of us are struggling with grief, and we had numerous murders, sadly, in our group final 12 months. So to begin this 12 months off with one thing optimistic and one thing that individuals can look to was very, very, crucial to me. … I reminded myself that I’m not the one one on this group that’s hurting, that’s misplaced family members.”

Averett carried out the primary session of Gigi’s PEARLS final month at Dorothy Peak Elementary Faculty, the place 22 ladies in grades 3-4 started the month-to-month one-hour gathering for discussions and actions designed to assist them develop into:

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Gigi is the nickname of her daughter, Gianna, who was 10 years previous when she was killed together with Gloria Quick, 56, and Caleb, 17, of their Upatoi dwelling. Their killers, Jervarceay Tapley, Rufus Leonard Burks IV and Raheam Daniel Gibson, had been youngsters on the time of the crime.

Tapley was sentenced to life with out parole. Burks obtained two concurrent life sentences plus 15 years. Gibson was sentenced to 30 years.

Authorities stated they stole two of the household’s automobiles, a number of pairs of Nike sneakers, an Adidas jacket, camouflage pants, polo shirts, video video games and $600 in cash.

Gigi’s PEARLS is a part of Averett’s grieving, she stated. And it’s a approach to maintain the reminiscence of her daughter’s life alive.

“I stored praying and asking for some kind of signal as to what would make me really feel good after which do one thing for this group as nicely, for these ladies as nicely, and that was my approach to give again,” she stated. “Generally in grief and unhappiness and melancholy, all of the issues I do know I’ve suffered, generally these issues can delivery out one thing very stunning.”

Averett is the advertising and marketing liaison for Columbus Hospice. Final summer time, whereas speaking with a pal, social employee Shawna Love, Averett was impressed to create a nonprofit group just like the one Love runs for boys, Boyz 2 Males Improvement, at Baker Center Faculty and Brewer and Martin Luther King Jr. elementary faculties.

Reaching these ladies earlier than they begin attending center college is vital, Averett stated.

“I need to join with ladies who’re laying that basis,” she stated.

They appeared off to an excellent begin whereas the L-E visited their first session. Together with Love as her assistant, Averett requested the women whether or not they’re a leaders, and every of them raised their hand. Averett additionally was wowed when the women hugged her in a huddle amid the classroom as they completed the session.

“To have that on the finish and say, ‘I don’t need to depart,’ that basically, actually, actually touched me,” she stated. “… I used to be ready to return to that mothering factor since you by no means cease being a mom, even for those who’ve misplaced your little one.”

This system addresses points associated to friendship, bullying, communication, along with the educational topics the scholars are taught of their common lessons.

“Lots of issues their lecturers are already imparting on them, we’ll form of expound on that, however we’ll additionally do extra of the life expertise,” Averett stated, reminiscent of “my altering physique, being wholesome, meditation, even some psychological well being issues. … I need to train them to discover and dream exterior of what they see.”

After the women crammed out worksheets that describe themselves, Averett built-in the varsity’s Character Phrase of the Month — kindness — into the session by main the women by means of the “I Can Present Kindness” exercise. She gave every woman a sticker every time they participated and informed them they may get a prize once they earn 5 stickers.

Eighty-four p.c of the varsity’s college students are thought-about economically deprived, in accordance with the most recent knowledge from the Governor’s Workplace of Pupil Achievement. And “quite a bit” of them come from “neighborhoods the place numerous disagreeable issues happen,” Dorothy Peak counselor Mary Jo Bridges informed the L-E.

So she was happy to see greater than half of the women eligible for this system had been registered.

“It’s necessary due to what’s occurring locally,” she stated. “When you might have a pupil that’s pleased, they need to study and so they’re motivated.

“Ms. Averett’s program goes to encourage the women and encourage the women, that there’s no restrict to what they will do. They only want that push for them to see somebody, a younger lady that has skilled the challenges and struggles she’s gone by means of, and it makes them see, ‘I can do it too.’”

Averett praised Bridges and Dorothy Peak principal Lamont Sheffield for welcoming her and this system to the varsity.

“To belief me sufficient and Miss Shawna sufficient is certainly, undoubtedly an excellent factor,” she stated.

Averett hopes this group can cut back violence by not solely serving to to form the lives of those ladies but additionally empowering them to affect their male family members and associates.

“Our ladies see issues,” she stated. “They might not like what their brother is doing, or they could not like what their uncle is doing. They’re in a position to be extra emotional and join and will even say, ‘That is how I really feel.’ So having each ends of that spectrum coated may be very, crucial.”

Averett additionally plans to conduct parenting workshops.

“We’re attempting to get the entire household concerned,” she stated.

Averett famous that the individuals who killed her family members had been teenage boys — and certainly one of their sisters is the one that informed her mom concerning the dangerous factor she thought her brother did.

“Generally girls maintain the important thing” to ending violence, Averett stated. “Generally we don’t say it as a result of we don’t really feel highly effective. We don’t really feel like we have now sufficient inside us to make that call. However I’m grateful at this time that woman spoke up and stated, ‘This was mistaken.’”

Averett needs to develop this system to group organizations and different faculties. She welcomes inquiries on Fb at her private web page or the Gigi’s PEARLS web page.

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