Don’t ask Jamesha Hayes to name the most valuable lesson she learned at Girls Inc. of Memphis unless you have a lot of time on your hands. Because there’s not just one.
“I learned who I am and where I’m going,” she says. “I learned that I have worth and value and I learned how to have joy. I learned how to create something where nothing exists and how to change plans quickly if something’s not working. And I learned that there is a time to fail and learn from that failure.”
When it comes to Jamesha and Girls Inc., that learning list is just the beginning.
“There was competition and camaraderie there,” She said. “There were many first time exposures to doing both traditional and non-traditional things. Jacks tournaments, where girls could just relax and have fun. I didn’t have older siblings but interacting with older girls who provided information on lots of topics. We were able to talk about anything and everything safely. You could learn about your body and what was happening to it. And I always had friend at Girls Inc. I could count on.”
Jamesha was a Girls Inc. participant from 1994 to 2007. She attended South Park Center from age 5 to 10 and then went to the Lucille Devore Tucker Center from age 11 to 17. After high school graduation in 2007, she earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Rhodes College and then a master’s in education from Christian Brothers University. She’s currently working on a PhD in educational leadership at the University of Memphis.
“I gained a love of education at Girls Inc.,” Jamesha says, “I’m secretly aiming to become a Supreme Court justice, eventually. But the focus of my degrees and my career has been education and educational leadership.”
Today she is Managing Director of Programs for Teach for America Memphis, managing a regional team from around the world who come to Memphis for a two-year training program. She designs and implements the training programs, usually based at the University of Memphis. She had to transition the sessions to a hybrid virtual platform in 2020 because of COVID-19.
She regularly uses what she learned from her Girls Inc. experiences in her role at Teach For America. She has led groups of girls in a program called Girl Talk for more than 10 years, she has served as a cheer coach at Cypress Middle School and she continues to partner with Girls Inc. of Memphis when she can.
And thanks to all those years of learning at Girls Inc., she’s still learning and helping others to learn.
“My girlhood experiences allowed me to see variations of Black female intelligence, Black female expression of self, Black female beauty, joy, and sisterhood because of my experiences at Girls Inc. of Memphis,” Jamesha said. “I learned how to lead, learn and live in my truth. I learned the power of having a plan and the power to choose to change that plan if needed. I learned how to work with a team, learned how to build teamwork, learned how to persevere through challenges and how to take a moment to celebrate success. In essence, I learned to be the best version of the woman I am today.”
Girls Inc. Alumna
Participant from 1994 to 2007