Program’s goal is to empower young people

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, December 2, 2014

By David Purtell

Starting in January, children can receive weekend tutoring and attend empowerment workshops at the Miller Recreation Center on West Bank Street.

Gemstones Academy will be run by Alisha Byrd and volunteers from the community. The program’s workshops and seminars are meant to empower young people, Byrd said.

The academy will be held on the second Saturday of each month throughout the year. Byrd said the workshops will focus on manners, etiquette and leadership. Simple things like saying “thank you” and speaking with confidence will be taught. Children will learn to respect others and themselves, Byrd said.

Gemstones Academy’s core values are: citizenship, scholarship, integrity and responsibility.

Alisha Byrd

Alisha Byrd

Byrd, 38, grew up on West Bank Street in the West End, and said she wants to give back to the community.

“I grew up going to the Miller Center all the time,” she said.

She said she grew up without a father figure and knows how that can affect young people.

She graduated from Winston-Salem State University with a degree in political science and also has a masters in business administration. She was in human resources for 11 years, but now runs her non-profit, Elect Ladies and Gentlemen Inc., full time.

Byrd has written two books: a memoir and a self-help book for teenage girls called “Gemstones: Embrace Her, Become Her, Love Her.”

She said she’s been working with children since finishing her book in 2013. And children tell her they can relate to the characters in the book, Byrd said.

Byrd, who has an 18-year-old daughter, said the objective of Gemstones Academy is to help children reach their full potential.

“I am one who believes in, ‘if you see the need, meet the need,’” she said.

Byrd said all children, despite where they come from, can have a bright future.

The West End Community needs change, she said, and she wants to help make that change a reality. But she made the point that Gemstones is open to children throughout Rowan County.

The program is for children in 5th grade through high school. There is a one-time registration fee of $25 for fifth graders, $35 for middle school students and $50 for high school students, though Byrd said the fee can be waived in special cases.

The workshops will be separated by age, Byrd said.

Applications for the academy are available through the Rowan-Salisbury School System, Byrd said. The deadline to sign up is Friday.

For more information or to learn how to sponsor a child in the program, visit or call Byrd at 704-762-1445.

Contact reporter David Purtell at 704-797-4264.