Tianisha Payne was an aspiring investment banker before deciding she couldn’t maintain both her lucrative career and her passion. So his passion took over.
The potential of $75,000 in base salary and commissions from his previous job couldn’t surpass his invaluable efforts to make a difference among young black people. Now, the 32-year-old is pouring her energy into building a group of young black women living in a city with one of the highest poverty rates in the country.
Payne is the Founding Director and CEO of Girls Emerging into Maturity (GEMZ), a Dayton, Ohio-based nonprofit organization that strives to “improve Ohio’s future by inspiring young , empowering families and communities with tools and resources to succeed. ,” As stated by the site.
The band started in 2017 while Payne was concurrently working full-time. She left her well-paying position in 2021, but not without some reservations. She feared that she would not have a stable income as she laid the foundations of her organization. But the Ohio State University psychology graduate became increasingly motivated as her group continued to grow.
The story behind Payne’s decision is rooted in tragedy. According to Dayton Daily Newsshe was particularly motivated to start her non-profit organization after suffering at least three losses in her family due to violence in the city.
“It is necessary. We lose our daughters, our young people, we absolutely lose them in the streets,” she told the outlet. “We lose them mentally. We lose them spiritually. They lose the innocence of being a child, when at the age of 10 they are already asking questions about sex and trying to identify with their sexuality. Why? You are a teenager. There are experiences to be had in as a child and they don’t understand them.
The non-profit organization is currently made up of 25 girls between the ages of 10 and 18. Through mentorship and guidance, Payne meets with the girls to discuss topics such as sexuality, mindfulness, understanding finances, career success, personal hygiene, and more. The program has thrived in its 97% retention rate, according to the Grio. The program requires all girls to attend 75% of all sessions and maintain a GPA of 2.6.
“That environment is their safe space where they can tell me how they’re feeling, and they can cry, or they can scream, or they can dance because some girls have a lot of energy,” Payne told the Dayton Daily News.
Additionally, this determined leader is also co-owner of Gems Group Home Inc, a transitional group home to house teens ages 11-19 and help them take the next steps.