135 Years, 135 Stories title image

I’m Definitely Not Finished

JULIA, Pennsylvania

I have overcome tremendous odds as a high school drop out and a single mother of three children, Brandon (20), Donny (13) and Janiy’a (5).

When I look back at my childhood, my home environment was not the greatest since my parents were dealing with addiction. I ended up running away at the age of 13 and then became a teen parent at 15. This led to a childhood of frequent stays in placement; living in a group home for teen girls and then a home for pregnant teens and young mothers.

One of my placements was at Youth Services, Inc. (YSI). At YSI they encouraged and supported me to succeed and to work hard. I was able to get my “teenage years back” because I was able to gain my education and be involved in school activities all while I was learning to be a responsible teen mother.

Despite experiencing such unfortunate circumstances, I refused to fail. Upon graduation from the Philadelphia Job Corps, I earned the distinguished award of “Most Likely to Succeed” and received The Business Clerical Certification & Pathways Marriott Hotel Training Certification. Indicative of my desire and determination to strive for greatness, I am currently pursuing a degree in Behavior Health and Women Gender Studies at the Community College of Philadelphia.

I am also currently employed as the Senior Event Delivery Manager & Mentor for the Philadelphia Marriott. And to think I started at the Marriott as an intern more than 12 year ago. I am very proud that I have now grown through the ranks in the hospitality industry. My daily responsibilities have changed over the years and now I oversee and manage 92,000 square feet banquet and meeting space, 11 managers and supervisors as well as 200 associates.

I remain involved in my community by serving as mentor in various mentoring programs at Presbyterian Village and the Marriott. It is because of my life experiences that I founded the Jewel’s G.E.M Inc. (Genuine Enlightenment Mentoring). Here’s how we describe our mission:

Jewel’s G.E.M Inc. is an organization designed to help cultivate and shape young women and men who are aging out of the foster care or child welfare system. We provide them with opportunities to develop skills they will need to become productive citizens. By offering mentoring and life skills training, we believe we can help empower these young people to be successful despite the unfortunate issues they face.

And here’s how we describe our vision: To see all young people with the adequate resources and skills they need to be successful in life by Embracing, Encouraging, Building and Restoring, Life Skills by providing them with a Creative atmosphere through Round Table Discussions, Focus Group, Art, Workshops and a Job Readiness Program.

I refused to become a product of my environment or a victim of my circumstances. I truly believe that it’s not where a person starts but how a person finishes.

Recently I was voted onto YSI’s board of directors. I’d say my “finish” is looking pretty good…but I am definitely not “finished.”

Julia's Story Photo